I read a very interesting article that reiterated everything I believe about effective professional development (you can read the article HERE). For the longest time I have sat in workshops or department meetings and wished that I was just about anywhere else. It was never about the topics being uninteresting or that I didn’t feel the information applied to me, but rather I always felt that time was not being used effectively. We are constantly told to give students more hands-on experience and less “stand and deliver” teacher-centered instruction. We know that project-based authentic instruction works better for student retention. We also know that differentiation is essential to the mixed ability classroom, and yet we assume that all of our teachers have the same needs, same abilities and are able to learn information the same way.
How can we expect our teachers to put into practice things that are constantly given in traditional methods? Time after time, I hear teachers saying: “well that information is great, but I need you to SHOW me what this looks like in the classroom.”
I feel like I’m always sitting through presentations in which I could easily google the same information that was placed into a powerpoint. I dislike being asked to “bare with a presenter” and “hold questions or discussion” until after the presentation. I would much rather watch a presentation on my own, which gives me time to digest the information, write down any questions that I have, and be more prepared for discussion. I love workshops that allow me time to discuss topics with other teachers, share current trends and practices, as well as demonstrate what effective teaching looks like in the classroom. I love being asked to be a “student” and experience education from my students’ perspective. It helps me reflect on my own teaching habits and find better solutions to certain problems I face with behavior, content, and instruction.
A note to administration: I know professional development like this takes time, but keep in mind, this kind of time investment is exactly what you are asking your teachers to do. If you can put in that time and effort to design professional development that invigorates your staff, provides an effective instructional model, and places your teachers at the heart of open dialogue, you will not only improve on morale, but you will have developed a professional learning community that extends beyond the workshop.