Short answer: it’s professional development.
Unpack that, though. What is it?
Is it something I do because there are days in the school’s calendar that are identified as such?
Is it something I look forward to or something I tolerate?
Does it usually represent my specific needs or those of my students – subject matter, classroom configurations, background, culture, role in the school system (if you are not a teacher or wear many hats)…?
Do I consider it as an important part of my teaching (or consulting, or administrative, or insert role in education here) practice?
About mid-way through my teaching career, I found myself offering to take on a small group of very challenging 8th graders as an alternative to their being asked to leave school. It was me and them – all day, every day. Each of them came with their own unique behaviours (behaviours they had been honing since an early age) but one student in particular offered me a challenge that I jumped at – he sang. All day, every day. The challenge wasn’t only his singing but refereeing peer complaints about his singing. All day, every day. I refused to ask him to leave the room but I had to do something because I couldn’t think anymore.
So I spent my evenings and weekends researching how to deal with the situation – at the library, on the Internet, and by asking questions on various listservs – or email groups – I was involved with. This was before Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Was this PD?
I was looking to learn new things in order to solve real-time problems in my classroom. I was adding classroom management tools to my repertoire that I have continued to develop since then.
Was it recognized as PD?
Not so much. Even though I spent hours outside of the schoolhouse striving to be a better teacher, I still had to attend the same professional development that the rest of the school was attending – even when it was something that I was already very familiar with. I took this in stride because it was how PD was done and I probably spent a lot of my PED day pretending to take notes but really planning lessons.
Not very practical.
How can we make sure that PD is practical?
There is a growing trend calling for teachers to take charge of their own professional development. That is the best way to make it practical. There are so many ways to connect with other educators and to discover or pinpoint best practices and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. PD Mosaic is one place you can start – it is a brand new site for professional development that can be tackled on your own or, even better, with the people you work. As I write this post, I received a notification of another blog post on PD that outlines different ways to connect and develop as teachers – some in school and some out.
Practical PD needs to be relevant and useful. What would your perfect PD be? And how are you going to pitch it to your director or principal? 😉