Professional development has been a benefit to both teachers and students, according to Dave Keane, Fort Dodge Senior High principal.
Time is scheduled in the afternoons on early release days for teachers and administrators to come together and discuss ways to improve their practice.
"The teachers get together and we just learn together," Keane said. "Sometimes that's in a conversation sitting right down with each other and sometimes it's actually asynchronous where we might post something on a blog, or we actually have some documents right now on Google Docs, where the teachers can reflect on those. And then we just kind of keep that ongoing conversation about what's going on."
Staff and administrators alike have been using electronic communication, Keane said, to discuss issues and hold a greater conversation about education.
"It's difficult sometimes to be able to sit down with somebody when their prep periods are at different times during the day or they go off and coach right after school," he said. "And so we're finding that to be able to post our thoughts and then have somebody respond to them, there's some advantages to that. You can still share those ideas."
While not all teachers are so technologically savvy, the conversation nonetheless goes on within the school's walls.
"One of the things we're trying to do is get the teachers to share their thoughts and have a conversation with each other about, if this is the type of school that we should have how exactly do we get to that point?" Keane said.
Such changes have already taken place in the school as a result.
"The changes in our physical education program, some of those came from just sitting down and having conversations, saying, does physical educational have to be the exact same way it looked when we were going through school?" Keane said. "Or would it be better if we were to go ahead and modify it a little bit and give the kids some different experiences?"
One source Keane and the FDSH staff have drawn inspiration from is the book "Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World" by Tony Wagner.
"He's an educational writer, talking about how schools need to change to make sure we're actually preparing kids for the world they're going to live in rather than the world we've grown up in," Keane said.
Keane said his goal is for people to see the Fort Dodge Community School District "not just as a place for students to learn, but where adults are learning also."
"We're constantly trying to improve the way we do business, because if we don't continually reflect on how we're doing business and try to improve, we're doing a disservice to our students," he said. "The world doesn't stand still for us. It just keeps moving on."
As an educator, Keane said he finds the growth this time and these conversations have fostered to be "exciting."
"You can't be a teacher and go to school every day, shut your door and do what you want to do. That's the way education had been for years and years," he said. "A lot of the other professions have figured out a long time ago that we need to share our ideas and bounce things off each other, be more reflective in our practice. I've learned a lot just from some of the conversations with our teachers."
He added, "I like to learn. I was good at learning. That's why I stayed in school."