Follow-Up: Thoughts From a PD Connoisseur
My fellow Teaching Ahead authors have been writing about how teachers can develop their own innovative plans for growth. Many of us seem to have an innate drive to grow and improve our craft, learning on our own even if the "system" doesn't support it. But some of our colleagues don't do this. At least, they don't yet.
And in some ways, I get it. After all, here's how many administrators approach the lack of interest: "If we pay them to attend this great PD opportunity, they will come and learn, thereby becoming better teachers."
But here's what I hear in the halls:
"I have another PLC tomorrow."
"Because it is that mandatory one. I have to go meet with those teachers (from that school). They are so hard to work with. All they ever do is complain."
"What are you going to talk about?"
"That article from 2001 on a new method for teaching."
"Oh. Bummer. At least you get paid!"
"True! I'll just sit there, put in my time and let them vent. Sometimes I get something good out of it."
Sound familiar? If so, what would it take to shift teachers' attitudes toward professional learning?
Notice the helplessness in the dialogue: "I can't do anything about it, so I'll just go and get paid ... maybe I'll learn something." Humans have an innate desire for controland for meaning.
Offering teachers greater autonomy would feed our desire to learn and grow.
What if PD systems gave teachers more control over at least one of these areas?
1) Area of improvement. One thing I valued about the National Board process was that I chose my area of study. If districts and schools develop rubrics aligned with their goals and initiatives, teachers could assess themselves, identifying their own PD needs.
2) Format of professional development. It is easy for us to accept that students learn in different wayswhy not teachers, too? Consider alternative PD forms: action research, mentoring, PLC's, studio classrooms, observing and reflecting with peers, collaboration with other organizations, guest speakers, Make-it/Take-it workshops, collaborative learning groups and many others.
3) Cohort of colleagues in one's professional learning community. If we don't have the freedom to choose with whom we work and collaborate, establishing norms with integrity can be difficult. The commitment just isn't there.
What do you think? If you could have control over one of these three aspects of your professional development, which would it be?
Delonna Halliday is a 4th Grade teacher at Grant Center for the Expressive Arts in Tacoma, Wash. She has a background in TV/movie production, spent a year teaching in China, and earned a master's degree in education before launching her classroom career in the U.S. A National Board-certified teacher, Delonna is a member of the Washington New Millennium Initiative team.