Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Professional Development: Newbie Perspective Part 1

I love professional development. An obvious reason is that there is a lot more information that I need to know to become a successful teacher. The right amount of unknowns paired with the opportunity to turn some of them into knowns can be very motivating. Also, educators love to chat about school, students, pedagogy and educational theory any chance we get, probably to the point where those outside the profession would get a migraine. But we just love swapping ideas, and professional development is the perfect opportunity to do that. So it is no surprise that I hunger for any professional development opportunities that arise. However, there is no guarantee that I always get a lot of motivation and great ideas out of them.

Most of our professional development in education is led by the best in the field, people who have had remarkable careers in schools for decades and have gone on to continue studying and working with other educators. So you might think it would be a display of the very best practices in teaching and motivating people. I'm sorry to tell you, that's not always the case.

In all fairness I have to say, that I never have walked away from a professional development not having learned anything, but the enjoyment factor is not always there. In a previous position, I was employed in a small school that was part of a union of 5 or 6 other rural schools. We all gathered together for some union wide professional days in one of these cute little k-8 schools.

My first union P.D. day took place in a very cozy k-8 school that sported its own greenhouse and cafeteria composting program. School hadn't even started yet and I was pumped full of motivation as we gathered in the cafeteria-gym-auditorium for greetings and breakfast. I had my notebook and pens ready, guzzled a few cups of coffee and chatted excitedly with other new teachers as we waited for the day to begin.

I should note here, that even if everyone wore a bag over their head at one of these P.D. days, you would still be able to tell the veterans from the amateurs. As a stereotype, you might see the new kids chatting, smiling, raising eyebrows and asking questions. The vets, as a stereotype again, would be seen yawning, looking at their phones or laptops, shaking their heads side to side, or reading non educational literature. Please note, I am appealing to stereotypes for humor, Many of the veteran teachers that do not enjoy these large P.D. days are amazing teachers that still care about the profession and love to learn. But I had to ask myself, why don't they want to be here? Free coffee and muffins, and free education. Is it so bad?

To be continued...


Mrs. Pothier said...

As "CEO's" of our craft, we need to forge a new way of doing business! As it turns out, the "truest" teachers don't really like escalators at all! Most of the time, they take the stairs. That's the different between job-doers and lifelong learners. To me, LEARNING IS EVERYTHING. I got more out of the last two days of PD in our little school- just from sitting around a table of colleagues... talking about and fighting for what we value the most- than I ever have from large keynote formats using the next best speaker.

Miss V. said...

I totally agree. I was about to come back here and delete this post, fearing I might offend someone from the union schools. But, I'm pretty sure I wasn't alone in feeling like we could have used our time there better.

I think our PD days were authentic and way more valuable. We are a small school, so I think we are better at finding out own solutions.

I also think that for any business or organization that wants to be cutting edge, they need people that will sit at the table and argue and discuss what they feel important. We need people like you!

Thanks for reading and commenting!!