For Teachers the initials PD often mean Painful Detention instead of Professional Development. The traditional format of having educators learn new strategies or methods has been to sit in a room and listen to a person speak. The “Sit & Get” is horrible and in about 15 minutes a quick scan of the room you find most on their phones. Just check out this Chicago Public Schools example.
The worst is the PowerPoint from hell. An endless parade of slides with too much on each one. There ought to be a law that states you must warn attendees to the total number of slides before beginning. To make matters worse the room is full of extremely talented teachers who possess a high level of expertise across a myriad of topics and skills. The shifts in the paradigm in education sometimes seem to be occurring at a glacial pace. But then there can be a shift so noticeable you sit up and appreciate the new.
My district has experienced such a shift. On Friday our Director of Curriculum, with a team to support him, pulled off the “Best Professional Development we’ve ever had in over 20 years!” Mr. Richard Czyz (@RaCzyz) brought the concept of an EdCamp styled format to our in service. Forty teachers and teacher leaders presented two sessions each on topics ranging from yoga for kids to tips on managing difficult behaviors. I presented on using student perception surveys to improve practice through self-reflection. The only problem presented by attendees was the dissatisfaction with not being able to do all they wanted to do. Imagine being at a buffet with 40 trays of the most delicious and tempting foods and being told you could only sample from 4!
Besides the improved state of the Professional Development there is another major aspect of this worth mentioning. The Federal Department of Education in Washington, D.C. several years ago championed a white paper titled RESPECT, (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching).Too long the education profession has been suffering from a negative campaign in the public discourse and political arenas. The profession as a whole desperately needs to be uplifted and celebrated. Teaching is in a state of crisis. We have a drastic reduction in the number of college students declaring education majors. Scores of teachers are choosing to leave the profession earlier than they planned because of the stress of over reform, blame and standardized testing. When a district takes the time, as mine just did, to say, “We know our teachers are experts, lets listen to them and learn from them”, it is huge. Just look at the topics we presented on Friday. Our professional development day could have been a teaching convention for hundreds more to attend.
Teachers are experts at what they do. How can we expect the politicians, policy makers, parents and the public to believe this if on a local level we do not show it ourselves? Stafford Township School District has placed its teaching staff on a pedestal where they belong. I was always proud of the teachers at my district and now I am proud of how my district is moving forward to restore respect into the profession. Every student will benefit enormously when their teachers return with a new bag of tricks and methods to help them thrive in school. There is so much going on right now in Education that could easily depress the happiest of people, I choose to celebrate this amazing shift that holds so much promise of a better time for my students and colleagues. The director of Curriculum took a huge risk and I can’t thank him and those who helped him enough. Making teachers part of the solution finally makes sense. For the first time in a long time I see the RESPECT project as a potential reality instead of a “What If?”.