Let’s face it. Most organizations have limited funds available for professional development and growth. It doesn’t matter that the organization has the professional growth of the staff as one of its core values. It doesn’t matter that good professional development opportunities help retain staff and could turn a good staff member into a better one. What matters is the the professional development line in a budget can easily be cut without anyone noticing right away. Sure, it might not be wise in the long-term, but when it comes to budgets, most people think tactics and not strategy.

This makes professional development funds in any organization’s budget a limited and precious resource. So how best to deploy it?

If you are like me, you often think about who should be allocated funds from the professional development budget. Often, I would think about the teacher’s long term plans for the school and their previous professional development experiences. I might be more willing to provide funds for a new to us teacher in the hopes that this would help retain them on staff longer. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t.

grandma-304292What if, however, you approached professional development the same way that Bunker Roy approaches changing the lives of villagers? As founder of the Barefoot College, Roy looks for “grandmothers” to train to help provide villages with basic services, like solar power, to help make them self-sufficient.

Why grandmothers? Perhaps because they have enough life experience to push against the grain of the village culture. Or as Roy once said, “Illiterate grandmothers are humble and easy to teach. Grandmothers have a vested interest in the village and have no desire to leave. Give a youth a piece of paper and he is off to the city to find a better job.”

His experience made me think. What if instead of targeting promising teachers for professional development, we invested in the “grandmothers” of our schools? The veteran teachers, male or female, who have put heart  and soul into your organization who are in it for the long  haul. Provide them with the inspiration that professional development brings and a supportive professional growth plan. Maybe they are the change agents that you are seeking and not your new staff.

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