Friday, September 3, 2010

Changing the culture of professional development...

Most students from across the country have returned to schools refreshed, recharged, and rejuvenated to continue their journey through the educational process.  As students use their summer break to relax and simply be kids, teachers and administrators utilize their time to both improve and develop their skills as educators.  The summer provides an excellent opportunity for all educators to refine and enhance their abilities as facilitators of knowledge.  Unfortunately, I think many educators lose many of these opportunities once the school year begins due to time constraints and lack of motivation, which I believe are directly linked to low interest and lack of time.

For as long as I can remember, professional development days have been loved by students, and dreaded by teachers.  It is easy to see why the students love professional development days, but I am somewhat perplexed by the well documented research showing a lack of interest and desire among educators as it pertains to professional development days.  Naturally as educators, we have an innate desire to learn, to grow, and most importantly affect the lives of our students in a positive way...and unless I am mistaken, isn't that the purpose of PD days?  So, I have to ask the obvious question...then why do we have so many educators who dread the quarterly PD day?

Over the last couple years at my high school we have begun a transformation that has drastically improved our PD days.  We have not only asked our teachers what they were interested in learning about, we also listened to what they said and designed our PD days around the needs and desires of our teachers.  Additionally, we have recruited teachers from our own staff (which saves money and strengthens collaboration and sharing) to share their knowledge and expertise.  This has been extremely powerful in building camaraderie, as well as helping to develop a team of instructional leaders who are not current administrators.

Something I am really excited about for this year is the fact we will be introducing PD strategies that can be utilized on a 24/7 basis.  Why should educators grow and develop only during the summer time and on quarterly PD days?  Shouldn't we help and give our teachers the necessary knowledge to tap into professional development opportunities they can access at any time?  PLN's (professional learning networks), blogs, and Twitter have all proven to be excellent resources when it comes to giving educators a direct avenue to growing professionally outside of the "typical" PD borders.  The positive progression of professional development days at my high school will continue to change the average teacher's opinion of PD, and hopefully as the professional development culture changes, PD will become a day for which all teachers long. Changing the culture of PD is one of the fastest and longest lasting ways we can help educators grow and develop, which in turn will improve overall success for all students.                 

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