authentic learning, being a teacher, lessons learned, PD

Thoughts on Professional Development

  1. Why do we even call it professional development? Being in education is so much more than just being a professional and development happens continually around us. Perhaps we should call it something different like expanding as an educator or how about just growth? Either professional development smacks of something that can only happent at a set time and is just not true, which leads me to my next point.
  2. Why the limitations on what counts as pd? I often learn more spending an hour with my reader or even engaging in a twitter chat. Depending on who you immerse yourself with provocating thoughts abound, as does reflection.  Go into a teacher’s lounge and engage in a conversation, I think they have gotten a bad rep unnecessarily.
  3. Who says you have to be an expert to conduct pd? I think there are many people in educations that are experts at something, oftentimes, they just do not know it because nobody gave them the title. Go to an edcamp and see how many experts are there, heck, go to a school and be amazed at all the knowledge. We don’t need a fancy title to have something valuable to share.
  4. Get rid of the limiting agendas. There seems to be a perpetual fear that if administration or whomever is putting on this pd doesn’t set an hour-by-hour or question-by-question agenda that all of the time will be worthless. That the conversation happening will only be moaning and procrastination. Maybe sometimes but not all the time, let those involved set the agenda and then trust them; there is far too little trust in education overall.
  5. Enough with the crazy buzzwords!  I don’t feel like listening to someone discuss what a 21st century learner looks like…hmm 5 foot 2, brown hair with a smile?  Or even how the flipped classroom is going to save education.  Common core standards, differentiation, value-added learning, PBIS and any of the other billions of acronyms hunting us all.  Just give me titles I can understand and a discussion worth participating in.
  6. Give me a chance to participate.  Much like our students crave the recognition that their voices matter, so do PD participants.  How else explain the back channels happening at even the tiniest of conferences?  I have been tempted to pass notes even, anything really, to ask  my questions, get some feedback and get the discussion started.
  7. Enough with the stories.  Educators love great stories and we all have them.  Our aha moments, that kid that we stayed teaching for, those parents that challenged out assumptions, yep we all have them so let’s acknowledge that and move on.  I love a great story over dinner but not the ones without a point and sometimes at PD sessions they just drain time.  
  8. Fair enough if you have something to sell but perhaps keep it to the end.  I had the chance to sit through an inspirational speech where the much paid presenter kept starting stories only to never finish them because we could read how it turned out in his book.  Seriously.  If you are sharing a story make it relevant and tell the whole thing.  
  9. Do you really need a Powerpoint?  I know it is so cool to bash Powerpoints but I think there is a huge reason for that.  If your message is short, sweet and to the point give me some pictures to go with it, have dancers perform it behind you, or skip it altogether.  Images behind you are a direct competition to your words so pick wisely.
  10. Keep it short.  And not just for my attention span, but also because even the most incredible learning opportunities will lose their luster after the message is repeated over 40 minutes.  Shorten your message and open up for conversations, participation or even brainstorming.  

7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Professional Development”

  1. Whilst I heartily agree with the general thrust of you 10 points, I think we also need a whole paradigm shift in our understanding of how teachers 'develop' and how best to encourage that development.Let's move away from the 'empty vessel' model of PD and move towards regular, frequent, teacher-centred learning aimed at improved student outcomes.The stand-up lecture by an external expert is so 20th century.

  2. I just did a blog post on this same subject. It's good to find your blog post and read that others have similar thoughts as me. I agree with the last post…the stand alone type professional development is so old school. You raise some valid and interesting post. Thanks for the great read.

  3. I agree whith much of what you said. At one point a school where I taught was so into PD that I came up with my own seminar. lasting less than 5 min., my whole script would have been "teaching is rough, there are no magic beans, quick fixes and the 'latest from Guru X selling his new book…" is a waste of your time. Quit kvetching, observe and listen to your students and get on with what's right for them, not you." I don't think there would have been too many subscribers….Keep it short, to the point, and dispose of those "icebreaker games". Treat us like pros, please, not like an Amway meeting.

  4. This seems like a unique "village" approach and I would think this type of program would be very successful. Obviously, certain types of individuals will self-select into such a program and not everyone would attend but that's ok because these people will be advocates for growth and change.

  5. I always loved leaving PD sessions and hearing people say, "I have been developed," aka–I didn't give a rat's behind about the topic before I walked in, and I don't give a rat's behind about it now. The mention of a speaker constantly deferring to his book is priceless.

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