Monday, October 03, 2005

Professional development

I completely understand that in theory professional development can be a great thing. Veteran teachers and new teachers alike can benefit from new instructional strategies and revisiting or perfecting the ones that they already use. Why then is our hour-long professional development every Monday such a waste of time?

Actually, I think I can answer my own question. It might have something to do with the fact that our PD is presented as one session in the auditorium to every teacher in the school regardless of what they teach.

Our first session was on protocol for teaching Math to the new standards. There are a lot of teachers who don't teach math. (Me for one). This week we had a session on Four Square Writing. Leaving aside my personal thoughts on the Four Square, this session seemed at first to apply to more teachers than math. Then the presenter said that she would only be speaking to writing in grades 3-8. She said that teachers of the early grades should just "sit back and see what the rest of the grades are doing." There is a K-2 Four Square, but she wouldn't be discussing it. What a waste of time for those teachers. So they are clocking the required number of hours, but they are gaining nothing from it. Why not just let them go home (or work in their classrooms) if the PD is explicitly not applicable to them.

At the end of the hour I saw the two gym teachers make a bee line for the door. I hadn't even realized that they too were forced to suffer through these weekly trainings. Will there ever be even ONE session applicable to them? I highly doubt it.

What if, instead of meeting whole school in the auditorium, we had smaller more specialized PD sessions? We could team up with other schools in the district so that Social Studies teachers, math teachers, early elementary teachers, etc. could work separately to really focus on their teaching areas. Then, PD might actually serve it's purpose of helping teachers.

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