Saturday, October 23, 2010

Professional Development

Professional Development, often called PD, are classes geared towards teachers to improve their teacher in some way. In my district, teachers are required to have 24 hours of PD a year. I currently have 36 hours with another 9 that I'll add before the end of the year. You don't have to go over and above on your hours, but it's helpful for a variety of reasons. PDs are generally informative, so they can help you. If you intend to leave the classroom to pursue counseling or administration, having extra hours from year to year can help you toward that.

There are PDs on just about everything. If you can use it in the classroom, there's a PD on it. I've attended a PD session about how to teach kids to read the newspaper! Really! For some teachers, PDs are just another requirement that we begrudgingly attend. I won't lie. I used to be one. They can be awfully corny at times. However, just like I tell my students, you'll get out of the lesson as much as you put in. It's easy to sit in the back of a PD and crack jokes while updating your Facebook. It's easy to make fun of the teachers getting up there to help you in your own classroom. It's easy to sit back and zone out. It's easy to act like some of our most difficult students.

I didn't understand the point of PDs when I first started teaching. Didn't I just complete my masters in teaching? I already know all of this stuff! So, I sat down, zoned out and waited for it to end. However, I was so incredibly wrong. Teaching changes constantly. Within a year, my information from my masters was almost completely obsolete. This was when I started paying attention better at PDs. I also preferred the smaller PDs that had actual classroom teachers in charge. You see, my pet peeve is to listen to some motivational speaker who spent 2-3 years in the classroom before moving on to teaching teachers. The problem is that they weren't even really in the classroom long enough to establish their own learning environment.  Or, they were successful as a result of circumstances that were outside of a normal teacher's control.

No, the real, genuine teachers who are in real classrooms are who I like to learn from. As some PD leaders put it, they're the teachers who are "in the trenches". They're growing and adapting in their own classrooms and they're sharing what works with you. And, possibly even more important, they are sharing what doesn't work with you.

In about a month and a half, I'll be helping to lead my own PD. I've heard that it can be more frustrating than anything in the classroom. Why? Because correcting adults is embarrassing for all involved. I can't help but think how disappointed I'll be to see someone texting and talking during presentations. I'd never put up with such behavior from my students, but there are teachers who think nothing of doing that during a PD. How can we expect better from our students if we can't even control our own behavior when we're "in class"?

The next time you attend a PD, remember how you want your students to behave. Remember what kind of behavior you wouldn't accept from your kids. Remember that's one of you up there expecting decent behavior from her peers.

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