Ok, I said it. Many times professional development… well it is less than engaging. Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone into a professional development session / meeting / activity / day and thought “Ughhhh. This is going to be a TOTAL waste of my time.”
I see you there. I see your hand up.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever viewed your PD day as a “free day” to take off work and not write sub plans.
Ooooh look at that. More hands!
So, what is the solution? How can schools ensure professional development doesn’t suck? How can they make sure EVERY, yes every, teacher takes away something useful and doesn’t think they just wasted a few hours of their life?
The answer is work. Lots of work. There are very few (ok probably zero) professional development activities that are one-size-fits-all. What is important for an 8th grade science teacher isn’t going to matter in the least bit to a 6th grade ELA teacher. Those tips and tricks that’ll keep a 1st grader on task won’t work AT ALL for a 5th grader.
The days of whole school professional development need to stop. Administrators need to really KNOW their teachers and know what they value. How do they do that? Simple. Ask teachers what they need. Do they need classroom management strategies? Planning tips and tricks? Building relationships techniques? Are they interested in interactive notebooks? Are they new teachers who could use some support?
Even two 7th grade math teachers may have completely different needs when it comes to professional development. One teacher may have all upper level classes and have a different set of challenges than his colleague who teaches mostly struggling learners. The same resources won’t help both of these teachers.
My suggestion is for those district wide professional development days to be just that – district wide. Offer teachers a menu of things to pick from. Give them a reason to get excited about professional development. Give them a reason to WANT to come to work that day and not take the day off to run errands or schedule 4 different doctor visits.
Pay to bring good people in. Look within your district to find good people already there. Consider offering the following sessions to any and all teachers at different locations throughout the district.
- New Teacher Professional Development (I’ve got something BIG coming out soon for this!)
- Interactive Notebooks in Lower Grades and Upper Grades – two different sessions
- Classroom Management in Lower Grades and Upper Grades – two different sessions
- Content specific PD (Algebra 1 only, Math 6 only, 3rd grade multi-subject, 3rd grade departmentalized, etc.)
- Building relationships with difficult students.
- Cooperative planning
- Communicating with parents
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