PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT! (Did you just cringe a little?)

Doesn’t every teacher love it when their administrators inform them of the wonderful upcoming professional development they have planned? My parents were both teachers (dad: high school language arts, mom: 1st grade), so I know quite well what their professional development experience was like. It would go something like this:

  1. invite some educational expert to come share their wisdom with the staff and pay them lots of money to do it
  2. said expert talks….and talks….and talks some more AT the staff
  3. staff brains start to melt
  4. maybe the expert works in some sort of trivial interaction between staff members
  5. expert goes home
  6. business as usual for the staff the next day

If this sounds familiar to you too, I feel bad for you. Fortunately, in my 10 years, our professional development has been a bit more interactive and centered around discussions between staff members.

But as I’ve found out the last couple of weeks, the best PD is the PD that teachers seek out themselves. PD where they can meet fresh new educational minds to learn from and share with. I’m convinced that the best PD is that which involves thoughts and opinions from experts (preferably those still in the teaching/administrative trenches, who share lessons learned from their own practice) followed by TIME TO DIGEST AND DISCUSS THE INFORMATION WITH OTHERS. I cannot stress the importance of that last part enough – time to process and discuss the information is VITAL to retention.

I recently attended the first annual Grading and Assessment Summit in Mokena, IL, a PD event focused on the merits of standards-based grading and learning. It was easily the best PD experience I’ve had in 10 years, and I thank Dr. Brian Wright, Principal at Bradley-Bourbonnais High School in Bradley, IL for organizing the event. I saw some great presenters, including Ken Mattingly, Garnet Hillman, Terie Engelbrecht, Megan Moran, and Jeff Harding. But what was so great about it was that these presenters mingled and discussed serious teaching topics with the attendees. I thought that was fantastic – we got to engage in great discussions with these educators, the experts invited to share their wisdom.

I do wish we would have had more time to process and discuss the presentations, however. I found myself not wanting to stop the great discussions we were having, instead wanting more time for that before the next set of breakout sessions.

If there are any presenters or organizers of PD events reading this, please consider offering the collaboration time that truly completes the PD experience for the attendees. We want to dive head first into your content so that we can retain it fully.

P.S. If you’d like to follow any of the great presenters listed above, here are their Twitter handles:

Ken Mattingly (@kenmattingly)
Garnet Hillman (@garnet_hillman)
Terie Engelbrecht (@mrsebiology)
Megan Moran (@MeganCMoMo)
Jeff Harding (@GradesHarding)
Dr. Brian Wright (DrBrianWright)