Posted in professional development, teaching, Tech-ventures, Uncategorized

Real Talk: PD

My favorite quote from my readings this week:

Fullan and Stiegelbaurer (1991) summarized this by saying, “Nothing has promised so much and has been so frustratingly wasteful as the thousands of workshops and conferences that led to no significant change in practice when the teachers returned to their classrooms” (p. 316).

-Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools by Gwen Solomon & Lynne Schrum, page 101

There are a few things that both blow my mind and frustrate me:

  1. I am reading a book written almost 10 years ago that STILL hits the nail on the head.
  2. I am reading a book written almost 10 years ago, that quotes something written 25 years ago that STILL hits the nail on the head.
  3. Education hasn’t changed at all. 

That’s right. For all the hype and the memes on social media informing us of the changes in the role of the educator, the change of the student and the family profiles, and the changes in educational theory… We still have nearly identical problems set in new contexts.

The problem is simple: we have new information, we have new resources, we have new systems, and we have an ineffective delivery method.

Actually, I’ll correct that: We have effective delivery methods, that many districts refuse to implement. Or, they try, but they aren’t really trying–because they are not on board with the philosophies themselves. Instead we spend millions of dollars (maybe billions?) doing things described as:

  • “one-day program” (p.101)
  • “pray and spray” (p. 101)
  • “4 hours right after school” (p. 101)
  • “entire staff is required to attend” (p. 101)
G9 Professional Development and Awards - US Army - 092111
Used with Permission under Creative Commons 2.0 License by U.S. Army 

So, what are some of these more effective delivery methods?

It is pretty simple really: teachers need support. Actually, something I’ve been saying for a while now is that teachers are students. In fact, let’s take a detour to think about how we teach and reach students, and what we expect of them.

  • Do we instruct them one time, never revisit it, and the hold them accountable for learning? No. (and if we do, please fire this person, ‘mkay?)
  • Do we casually mention information here and there, tell them “no pressure to know this now”, then test them on it and blame them when they don’t know? See answer above. 
  • Do we give the information, provide them no support, no authentic practice, overwhelm them with 4-8 hours of single subject information with no breaks, no collaboration, and no clear expectations? See answer above. 

The answer is: I certainly hope not! 

In order to truly “develop” teachers, we need to focus on really teaching the new ideas, the new tools, the new resources, in the ways that we know stick in the brain.

We need learning communities. (Web 2.0 Tools, page 103). Actually, what we need is TIME to actually engage in these communities. I am (personally) sick of seeing schools add classes to the schedule to accommodate Athletics programs (YES! I said it!), rather than giving teachers a “learning” period to really engage in professional practice.

Someone will argue that 2 “off” (hahahahahaha) periods a day costs schools money, because they have to hire more teachers. However, better test scores, higher graduation rates, and actual utilization of the devices and software schools pay so much subscription money for doesn’t “waste” money. It saves money, or at the very least, prevents the waste of money.

We need peer coaching and mentor programs. (McREL Technology Initiative, Pitler, H., 2005) I was astounded to find (read sarcasm here) that when teachers are supported with coaching and mentorship, they use technology resources at higher rates and have more success in their classrooms doing so.

The best teachers are constantly giving their students time to learn, time to apply their learning, time to compare learning, time to reflect on learning, time to collaboration on new learning and support to re-learn old concepts that need to be retaught. But, for some reason, the classroom teacher is not afforded those same opportunities herself, and yet, is still equally (if not more) accountable for the learning.

That is my two cents. (Mic drop.)

-CL

P.S. I will end with this thought: many schools will say they provide all of this, but they do it outside of the work day. You know, when teachers are responsible for grading, planning and creating all of the content for their classes. It is ENTIRELY unreasonable to assume that time provided primarily “outside of the school day” is effective. While a few online PLCs can find an effective niche there, that won’t be what turns a school around.

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Spanish Teacher, in love with life, and dancing til its over. I like giraffes and chocolate. If we aren't living for God, then what are we living for?

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