The concerns addressed in this post have been brewing in my head for a while.
I just hadn’t sat down to articulate them…until now.
Any resemblance to recent or future contexts is purely coincidental.
What is depicted here is a generic portrait of institutionalized thinking around professional development..
This post is written as an interrogation between an imaginary reporter (IR) and a teacher (T).
IR: What do you learn in school wide teacher workshops?
T: What the administration deems important.
It’s a one size fits all arrangement.
Whether or not it is a good fit for teachers
is not the point.
If everyone did something different,
how would the school keep track of that?
It would be too messy.
Besides, how would a school make sure
that there is consistency from grade to grade?
You see, differentiation and choice
are not meant for teachers.
IR: Who is doing the learning at school wide teacher workshops?
Some teachers, I’m sure,
but not everyone.
Take a teacher who already know this stuff.
It’s too basic for her.
However, if she focused on something
that was more relevant to her students’ needs,
then her classroom practice could improve.
Unfortunately, if there is a school wide PD focus,
then there is no one available to support her.
So, does she take a risk
in order to do something new and different in her classroom,
or does she simply do the same ‘ole, same ‘ole?
Stick with the status quo?
Travel the safe path?
Well, it depends
on how brave she’s feeling in any given year.
IR: Who decides what topics are addressed at school wide teacher workshops?
T: It’s usually the administrators.
Somebody has to approve it, right?
If not, teachers would do silly things
like take up knitting for their PD
or practice yoga to center themselves
after a long day of teaching.
(Not that I have anything against knitting or yoga.)
And, even when teachers can choose their PD activity,
they have to prove they’ve done it.
It’s the same thing teachers do when they control students’ reading
by having them fill out endless reading logs.
It’s a little about trust,
another bit about faith,
and a lot about respect.
IR: What needs to change?
T: Finally! You asked the million dollar question!
What needs to change is for teachers to be trusted
to figure out what they need to learn next
and how to best do that.
What needs to change is for schools to stop
one-time PD events that may be nice in the moment,
but that don’t make a difference in teaching or learning
in the long run.
What needs to change is for teachers to be the last asked
about their professional development needs.
What needs to change is for collaboration to be forced
on teachers. Sometimes, it’s OK to learn alone.
What needs to change is for the “professional”
in professional development to be taken seriously.
Then, and only then, will teachers experience learning
that makes sense to them.