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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Oh, No, Not Another PD

Bored     [Part one of a two part series]

     So, (yawn...smack, smack) another rousing day of training at your local school district.  

     This past week #edchat covered a topic that has been near and dear to my heart for a good many years - Professional Development (PD).  
   
     Why is PD; something so important to our growth as an educator and as a person; feared, loathed, and (often) hated? Maybe it has to do with the quality of the training being conducted, the time that the training is scheduled for, or the fact that the topic is not relevant to work nor life.

     Let's look at these 3 items and how some simple changes to how school districts conduct training can, and will, make growing professionally an enjoyable event.  We start with the notion of quality training.

     As they say, "Quality is in the eye of the beholder."  OK, so they don't say that, but this statement holds many truths.  If someone is attending training that is providing that person with some extraordinarily useful material then, to that person, the training was a success.  Even if no one else got anything out of it.  So, how can we guarantee that everyone sees quality in the training?  If enough options with varying scopes are offered then there is a higher chance that something, of quality, will be available to our trainees.   Well, we could increase the number of people, in district, that are qualified to conduct training and provide incentives for those who can provide unique training.

     Our next problem is when the PD is offered.  The normal times offered by school districts are the 2 weeks just prior to starting school, Monday holidays throughout the school year, and the first 2 weeks just after the school year ends.  What I feel during each of these times and what I hear from the majority of my fellow teachers during these times is that this is when we need to be in the classroom getting things ready for the education that will soon start or has just finished.  This is not the time to be pulled out of the classroom to (going back to the first argument) training that is perceived to be of low quality.

      Last issue is training that is not relevant to the teacher being trained.  It is one thing to have training that is of poor quality.  It is another thing to have great training that is about a subject that is not immediately useful to the teacher in the training session.  This, again, can be eliminated with multiple options for trainees to choose from. 

     Unfortunately, the only remedy identified in this post is to add qualified instructors to the list of people who can conduct training in the school district.  There are other ways.  For example, Teachers could go to trainings in other districts.  They could go to training at professional training sessions being held in the area.  They could go to local conferences being held in the area.  They could go to national conferences.  They could attend training sessions being held at local colleges or universities. 
  
     Most of the trainings that occur outside of the district get negative reactions from teachers unless there is reimbursement for expenses of travel, meals, and/or lodging.  In my experience the teachers who get to do these types of trainings are those in subject areas that have received grant monies to cover costs like these.   In one district I worked in, travel was first come, first served and the recipients had to conduct training in the district in something learned at the training event.  In another school district they would pay for a substitute but all costs were out of pocket and nothing was reimbursed. 
  
     In my current school our teachers have the ability to attend many conferences and trainings due to strategically gathered grant monies and other sources.  If training can be justified then we will be financed to attend.  However, with the current fiscal problems going on throughout our land even these opportunities are drying up.  It has gotten to the point, everywhere it seems, that all that is left is - District Professional Development!  NOOooooooooooo..........

     This does NOT have to be the case.  There is this thing called the Internet that provides access to trainings, lectures, and discussions going on all over the world.  Some of these events provide incredibly diverse topics, some a very narrow scope, and some just help make us think and see what else there is out there in the world of education.  There are new ways to teach, new technologies to use,  and new topics to bring to our classrooms.  In the next post I will explore some of these.