From Breakfast to Breakthrough

What started out as an innocent invitation to a breakfast meeting has now turned into the most profound professional learning experience of my career.breakfast

In the fall, I was invited to a breakfast meeting with three other colleagues, with whom I had had the pleasure of working with through our community of schools.  We had each had an opportunity to read, Intentional Interruption by Steven Katz and wanted to explore the notion of an administrator professional learning network, focusing on Katz’s notion of Problem of Practice.  Our schools were different, I was now at the education center, working in a system role, we had been in the role as administrators for various lengths of time and therefore a very eclectic group. Our common denominator was that we were all intrigued by Katz’s work.

So we decided to pull out our calendars and schedule some 3 hour sessions whereby we would not only delve into our own Problems of Practice, but we would construct and deconstruct a way to facilitate this process to eventually assist others who may be interested.

In order to include an added perspective to our “Breakfast Bunch” we invited a trusted and well respected Student Achievement Officer to join us.

As we started with the process, our first group member boldly decided to share what he thought was his problem of practice with our group, only to find, after an hour of interrogation from the rest of us, the root of his POP needed to go deeper and his focus shifted to another area within his school.

As a participant, I was intellectually challenged to maintain the same high level of questioning, comments and suggestions that my colleagues were bringing to the table.  I loved the dialogue and was inspired and energized and so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this process.

But it wasn’t until it was my turn on the “hot seat” that I truly appreciated the power of this process.  At our next session, it was my turn to present my Problem of Practice.  I spent time preparing and thinking through how I would present, what evidence I could use to support my position and truly felt I had a well-constructed POP.

As the interrogation began, I was comfortable in supporting my position, I held steady to what I thought was my belief about my practice and rationalized my choices.  As the questions continued, I felt that I was dodging one line of questioning only to enter another line from another colleague.  It was intense and intellectually demanding.  As educators we are so passionate about what we do and how we do what we do… It’s hard not to take the questions personally.  As the barrage continued, and just when I thought I couldn’t go any deeper …. It hit me!

And it was just like those moments in the movies or the cartoons when the light bulb goes on.


My problem of practice needed to involve others, it didn’t have to be “just about me doing it on my own”.

In my 25 years of education, I’ve had many great moments of discovering something new, a new resource, a new technology  or a new way of doing things. But I’ve never been a part of a process whereby through the unconditional trust and professionalism of others, I was able to truly come to a deeper understanding of something that now has a profound effect on how I go about doing my job and hopefully empowering others to do their job.

I’m thankful for my colleagues and that initial invitation.  Together we are continuing to inspire, empower and push not only our own but each other’s thinking.

Have you ever been involved in a professional learning opportunity that truly changed how you do your job?


Come write with me….

2 thoughts on “From Breakfast to Breakthrough

  1. You’ve developed a wonderful voice, Sue, and it’s a pleasure to read your work. Your reflections are informative and very helpful. Thank you.

  2. Sue,

    It’s great that you have found a group that not only respect each other enough to share Problems of Practice but to really question those Problems to get to the root of them. Without being privy to your conversations I am sure you were confident and clear with your Problem of Practice. Hopefully other administrators will learn from your leadership in this new method of professional learning.

    Thanks for sharing!

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