I feel like I have not been blogging as much lately because of the busyness of the end of the year. I find that I had lots of thoughts to blog about on Spring Break when I had the opportunity to step back and relax. I also do most of my blogging on the weekend when I have less preparation to focus on. I think one of the biggest obstacles to teachers improving their craft is time set aside to think, plan, and learn.
On Thursday I jumped into a conversation on Twitter started by John Spencer about professional development using the hashtag #edrethink . There was whining (lots by me) about how worthless the majority of PD that most districts offer. Most of the people in the discussion agreed that we need PD that is differentiated, personalized, and conversational. I personally think we need more opportunities for conversations amongst teachers.
Last year my district had a PD day with different session options to choose from. I thought it was a good idea, but for whatever reason it was not repeated this year. Personally I would design a PD day where teachers brought their three best lessons/ activities in class and their three biggest challenges. Then they would meet in small groups and discuss. Every half hour they would rotate to different groups so that there would be as many different conversations as possible.
Unfortunately teachers seem to be pressed to do more. The political climate in this country is currently quite negative toward teachers. There is an amplifying of the age old arguments about three months off and how easy it is to be a teacher. There are also the budget problems for public schools across the country. So it does not seem to be an environment where teachers will gain time in their scheduled day to converse and collaborate.
Those educators who care must dedicate their own time for their own learning and conversations. I personally “wasted” an hour that morning in this conversation, along with helping others on Twitter. Afterwards I felt refreshed at the break from all of the “stuff” that needed to be done by the conversations I participated in.
My question for you is when do you reflect on your teaching and personal learning? Do you find that it takes a concentrated effort for you to find time to think about things or are you able to do it in the midst of a stormy week? Do you see any signs of changing PD in your district from sit n’ git to more personal conversations?
I love the idea of bringing successes and challenges to the table and rotating and discussing.
I just want us to get away from sit n git professional development. We’re working as hard as we can to move away as quickly as possible from that model when teaching our students, yet as soon as it’s PD time we revert right back to large-group lecture.
I have colleagues who have been in my building for 5+ years. They don’t need the same initiative-retraining that I do.
I’d really enjoy a PD day like you described. Teach a lesson to me that you’ve been scared to try out and we’ll talk through what worked and what didn’t.
Thanks for mentioning the #edrethink. I really like your perspective on this issue. I don’t have much to add to the dialog, but I like the idea you have of informal PD being just as (or more) valuable than formal.
The importance of informal PD is often overlooked. I feel that some of the best PD conversations I have happen over a cup of coffee outside of our school. Unstructured conversations allow for creative conversations about education. I wonder if administrators feel the need for strict agendas so they can account for the work being done and thus accidentally restrict the creativity in PD meetings. Do other people see this happening?