We are seeing the traditional day off for Columbus Day off from schools more and more being turned into Staff / Professional Development days throughout the country. Some districts even close additional days so they can offer a consortium-like environment where teachers can maximize their learning time and take away something they can really use. Gone are (hopefully) the days of just sitting around to work on odds-n-ends (though downtime or maintenance is necessary, it’s not worth a whole day), or forced PD by means of a speaker or the latest cool-aid.
Professional Development should be meaningful and driven by choice.
I have witnessed Districts where they put forth this beautiful Staff Development catalog, full of courses and opportunities, only to be told that it was for show and that you were really told on where you’re going and what you’re doing. Ridiculous!
And, naturally, I have been subjected to PD to was a complete waste of time. Whether it was lack of roll-out or presentation, something that was completely unrelated to my field, or something I was aware of way before the powers-that-be decided to offer to everyone. Teachers should be angry about that express their concerns to their administrator on what they want to do. If anything, it’s a waste of a day and taxpayer dollars.
I recently collaborated with administrators and helped developed a full, REAL choice system for PD. Through the use of the google forms app, along with other websites like signupgenius.com, we created two days worth of workshops that were brought in as a result of choice and teacher feedback. On top of that, we extended the offer to teachers to teach some workshops, ranging form SMARTboard tricks to Yoga and classroom meditation. In all, over 45 classes / workshops were offered in two days.
The nicest part? Teachers had the opportunity to choose what they wanted to go to, and each were responsible for following their own schedule (which included “down time” where they could go back to their building and work on things and real lunch hour 🙂 No administrators were playing ‘gotcha’ with teachers trying to account for them (many administrators offered to teach classes themselves). The result of this new-found freedom? Teachers wanting to go to PD, and productive work getting accomplished. Yes, there were some mandatory training pieces for some of the support staff (i.e. OSHA, blood-borne pathogens, EPI-pen training, software updates, etc), but it was brief and taken care of quickly.
I’d be happy to share with anyone specifics on how the days went; if you want them, simply email me.
I’ll type it again — in 2012, with the abundance of technology, and level of collaboration that is now required in schools, there is simply no excuse for Districts to have meaningful, choice-driven PD. I encourage administrators and teachers to step up if you’re not getting subjected to this and make it happen; your District’s Staff will be happy that you did.