Leading Onward Professional Development: Where to Start?

My latest book, Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators, is designed to be a year-long curriculum for professional learning. Resilience is not something we can acquire over the course of a couple of weeks, and the accompanying Workbookprovides 365 resilience-boosting activities. (See the scope of learning here.)

My vision for this program begins in June, when I suggest that you read Chapter One, do the Workbook activities for that month, and focus on the habit of knowing yourself.

But what if you want to lead a group in this learning, but you don’t begin the journey until August or September? I’ve received a few emails which echo what this principal wrote:

My question is how to start this journey in late August. The habits & dispositions are so nicely tied to school year. At the same time, I do not want to “gloss over” the initial chapters. I realize June is an ideal time to start, but I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for when this is not possible.

Invite Learners to Make Decisions

When faced with this kind of question, I’m guided by principles of adult learning which dictate that we need to bring learners into the decision-making process. So, my first suggestion would be to convene your team or staff and get their input. You could share some options:

  • Accelerate the reading—read the first two chapters in a month and the second two chapter the following month (then you’d be caught up and on track).
  • Select only some of the Workbook activities to do each month.
  • Jump into which ever chapter correlates to whatever month you’re in—and read the previous chapters whenever you have time.
  • Follow the sequence of chapters, but don’t worry about the month you’re in. So you could read and discuss Chapter 1 in September, and then Chapter 2 in October, and so on.

The first two chapters lay the foundation for the rest of the book. These focus on knowing yourself and understanding emotions, and much of the rest of the content requires that learning and reflection. I’d be reluctant to skip them. However, the alignment to the month might also be important as, for example, the chapter about appreciation and celebration is mapped onto May as the school year ends.

Here’s What I’d Do

If I was guiding a group, and we started our Onwardlearning in September, I’d probably encourage us to follow my first suggestion—to accelerate our reading for a couple of months so that we can catch up and get on track. I think (and I’ve been told!) that the reading is pretty engaging—and so hopefully each chapter could be read and digested in a couple hours. I would want to make sure that there’s time for my group to really have some good discussions of the chapters—so I’d prioritize carving out time for that. And I’d encourage my group to browse through the Workbook activities and perhaps select 5 or 10 that they want to try out. I’d let each person make the choice about which ones to do.

Remember, focus on making sure that your team is having meaningful conversations and don’t rush the learning, and everything will be ok!

More Resources!

Also, make sure you’ve seen the incredible resources we’ve compiled on our Onward website. Here you’ll find supplementary videos, articles, and much more that you can use in your PD sessions or in your personal exploration of Onward. We are committed to building the resilience of educators and to providing you with all the resources and tools you need—and so if you have other requests or questions, please let us know! We are eager to support you and just need to know what you need.


  • I was considering reading this text with a group of teachers from a variety of school districts. We planned to read it from January to April. Is this text be a good choice based on what is expressed above?

    • Hi Amy, Yes this book is great for a group of teachers to read together. Spend some time January when you begin building community and trust so that as you engage with the work you can be as engaged as possible. If you are reading it over 4 months, I am assuming you are doing a few chapters a month. The first three chapters are foundational to the work so January and the start of a new year will be a great time to do this! Reach out if you have any other questions. – Janet

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