Friday, June 19, 2015

Professional Development

I want to talk about professional development today, a hot day in June.

I have blogged in the past that I believe that there are two main things that teachers can do to improve and become better teachers. Those were 1) Reflection and 2) Saying "YES" to the right things.  (Click on the words to read the blog post on my thoughts on both those topics.)

I guess you could call this a continuation of Say YES."

By saying YES to professional development.

Whenever I talk to other teachers about PD, I tend to run into three "reasons" why they can't or won't participate in a workshop or conference.

  1. "I won't get anything out of it anyway."
  2. "I can't be gone from my classroom."
  3. "There is no way my administration will let me go."
Today I want to address all three of these "reasons."

"I wont get anything out of it anyway"

This also comes in the form of "I don't learn anything new," "Those are boring," and "I don't need to go to a workshop to figure it out, I can Google stuff."  Ok...  Let's be honest here.  If your students said that about your class, what would you say to them?  Really??  You'd probably give them some sort of speech about how "you only get out what you put in..."

That applies here.  First of all.  Try it.  Try going to a workshop and actually participating and not checking your email, working on lesson plans, or playing Solitaire.  Be an active member of the audience.  Ask questions.  TALK to the people sitting at your table.  Make connections.  I rarely have been to a professional development day where there is not at least 30 minutes to talk, discuss, and work with other teachers from other schools.  Collaboration my friends.  It's the key to learning new ways to teach something and feeling that "spark" down in your gut.  

If you were considered a good teacher five years ago and are still doing the same lessons from the same coffee-stained notebook.  You're not good anymore.  Period.

"I can't be gone from my classroom"

Time for a little honest self-reflection.  Answer this question honestly.  Is your classroom "Teacher-Driven" or "Student-Driven"?  If you can't be gone from your classroom because the students won't learn when your not've got some work to do. 

I get it.  There are days that I can't miss too.  Those are usually days that I am introducing something new and students need me to guide them through the steps.  These days are few.  These days can be scheduled around workshop days that I want to attend.  Luckily with the help of technology, even if I'm not there physically, I can be there virtually.  I can email, send quick videos of instructions, even make changes to worksheet/assignments if necessary.  

Work towards trying to make your classroom focused more on the students and less on you.  This is always a work in progress for me.  I get better each year.

"There is no way my administration will let me go."

This one I want to address more directly to administrators than teachers, because this is the hardest road block to pass through for teachers who want PD.  This is hard because it is tied to money, and money in education is always a touchy subject.  Unfortunately when there is less money than what districts need, paying for teachers to go to PD workshops seems like and easy and obvious cut.

However.  Keep in mind.  There is nothing, NOTHING, more important to a students' education that the teacher in the classroom.  We all want good teachers.  PD is one of the first steps in getting there.  I am positive of it.  

If you can't afford to send your teachers to a conference then start thinking outside of the box.  Can you Skype in for a discount?  Can you work with your school league and create a League Collaboration Day on one of those common in-service days?  How can you facilitate teacher collaboration with other schools in different ways?

I know. I'm not an administrator. I do not have to make the hard, tough decisions on where to cut.  I'm just the teacher in the classroom, who wants to keep improving.  There are many others like me.  As you start sifting through those tough decisions on what to cut, where to cut, and how much to cut. Keep this little phrase in your mind...

Tweeted by Jim Ford:

"If you don't have great teachers, you don't have a great school and nothing else is going to change that." 

Just my thoughts.  

Authors Note:  I have not ever been or am currently working for any specific education cooperative.  These are my beliefs on how PD is important for teachers to attempt to attend.  My desire is always to continue to improve my teaching and share what has worked for me.  It is through collaboration with other teachers near and far that we improve.