It has taken me a long time to arrive to this conclusion:
Traditional professional development (PD) for teachers is not effective.
Teachers are busy. They’re still learning how to teach Common Core standards. They’re grappling with intervention, adopted curriculum, finding time for PE, and a myriad of other issues that have been around for decades (grading, parent conferences, classroom management). Of course, they have personal lives, too.
That’s why traditional PD doesn’t work. Traditional PD provides training after school. Maybe you get a day or two off to travel to a training center–away from students–and learn the newest program. Then you go back to your classroom and implement it.
In the past, I’ve set up the majority of my PD sessions after school where teachers can come to me and learn something about technology. I was convinced this was the best way. Then I learned it wasn’t. Teachers are too busy to go to a PD session after school–there’s just not enough time in the day. I thought just providing a training was enough. Like in Field of Dreams, I believed if I built it, they would come.
Field of Dreams lied to me.
I’ve even tried going to school sites and conducting training sessions, which usually results in poor turnout, too. This is a problem, because I truly believe I have quality material that will positively affect student learning. I have to share what I know. What’s the solution?
The solution is that I go to the teachers, in their classrooms, and teach their students while teachers watch. At first, people told me I wouldn’t receive enough bang for my buck. 45-60 minutes in one teacher’s classroom? Isn’t it better to have a PD session where there’s an opportunity for many teachers to show up?
No. Being in another teacher’s classroom affords me the opportunity to teach approximately 30 students and the teacher. Those students will get excited about technology, and they’ll help their friends. Teachers will see how engaged the students are, and they’ll tell their friends. Capacity (which is partly a shared knowledge of skills) grows in both students and teachers. This helps me build student and teacher leaders on campus who spread the awesome power of technology to others. This is stronger that a measly PD session. Plus, it shows I have skin in the game in regards to what I preach, and it helps me gain credibility in the eyes of teachers.
I still promote after school PD sessions in moderation, but most of my time and energy (PD-wise) is spent preparing lessons and teaching, which is what I love to do after all.