Professional Development Drought

*This blog post does not reflect the views of my school or anyone working within my school.

Professional development (PD) should be the cornerstone for anyone looking to better themselves no matter what career they choose. Educators seem to be at the forefront when it comes to attending PD. We are a profession that is constantly trying to make ourselves better and in some instances told we have no choice but to attend certain professional development because we cannot be licensed to be a teacher without a set number of hours of PD or college credits to match.

Since starting my teaching career over 16 years ago I have slowly and steadily watched professional development make the proverbial dive out of the sky as if it is an airplane that is slowly losing one engine at a time. Teachers aren’t going and the quality of PD isn’t always top notch. For me, I am lucky because I have had the privilege of being on both the delivery side of PD and the receiving end through work with the Chippewa River Writing Project. Through many conversations with colleagues and like-minded educators, I have come to a few conclusions as to why professional development is facing a potential breaking point for teachers and educators.

First, professional development is expensive. Many school districts used to help their teachers out and help pay for professional development. With constant cuts to per-pupil funding, declining enrollment, and other funding like Title II being cut, teachers are forced to pay for PD out of their own pockets. If you add up the cost of the conference, potential hotel expenses, gas, and meals. Teachers can potentially be looking at costs between $500-$1000 depending on the type of conference. Please don’t think I am complaining about what teachers make either. I am simply saying therepotentially is a lot of out of pocket costs to absorb.

Besides the financial burden of professional development, I feel there is low-quality PD being offered by our Intermediate School District (ISD) where multiple schools belong. They do a poor job of helping teachers. Our ISD is supposed to support and develop teachers and their skills. That is not happening. I do see them helping our new teachers, but that is it. I hear too much from their end about the high cost and poor attendance, etc. Why is it then that our ISD sits on almost 3 million dollars, but can’t offer quality experiences for teachers? I don’t know if this is true everywhere, but I know it is within my ISD.  They are not the only entities to blame for quality PD, but when considering the types of professional development that can be low cost or free for teachers, this is good place to start.

Now, put aside financial burden and quality of PD and the issue of teacher burnout existing. I never really gave much thought to teacher burnout until I was talking to a very close friend and colleague about why teachers are not participating in PD. He discussed that fact that teachers plates are becoming increasingly full. With reduced staff in schools, teachers are being asked to do more and more. When teachers prioritize what they need to do and get done, PD seems to be at the bottom of the significant list of items. I think of PD like a salad. We know it’s good for us and it can make us better or healthy. However, we just want to skip it and get to the main course or the main items on our plates. We don’t have time or the need to mess with the salad. I have even witnessed teachers turn down a professional development package that was worth over $1000 and all it would cost them is gas money to travel.

All of this lends itself to rethinking how professional development should be delivered to teachers. Yes, there are many online PD opportunities, but are they better than face-to-face? Is true collaboration taking place with online spaces? I do have a passion for the 4T Conference which is truly phenomenal. So, to say that all online PD is low quality is not a fair assessment. I do not have the answers and I am sure others don’t agree with what I am writing. On the other hand, I do feel it is time to rethink how PD is being done and what we can do to help teachers in this area.

Cheers!

 

PD

(Image Courtesy of Johnson County Community College http://blogs.jccc.edu/2017/08/11/professional-development-days-fall-2017/)

 

 


Motivation: For Teachers

The last few days of break have been very cumbersome for me. I have felt weighted down, not very energetic, and somewhat irritable.  Nevertheless, I knew the alarm would go off at 5:50a.m. this morning and I would have to be ready for my students. A very perplexing issue that has risen to the top of my thoughts over the past few days is the term motivation.  Yes, I truly believe as educators, we come back from Christmas break re-energized and ready to teach our students to the best of our abilities. 

 On the other hand, I know as a teacher in the great state of Michigan, we pray for snow days too.  Or at least I know I will be wanting a snow day. Why?  In my school district we don’t have another break until the start of our Spring break which is April 2.  Now, I know some school districts have a mid-winter break in February to try to break things up, but I do not.  So, I had to ask myself the last few days, what is going to keep me motivated to get me through this long stretch.  Because to be honest, mother nature doesn’t look to be on my side.

The first idea that came to mind was professional development.  This is a great time of year to be a part of some sort of professional development that your district or local university may be hosting.  I might suggest finding some professional development on the Common Core Standards.  I recently enrolled into a professional development book club about the Common Core and Project Based Learning.  I am looking forward to attending.  In addition, I am helping our Writing Project Sit with professional development about informational writing and the Common Core.  Needless to say, there should be plenty of opportunities for any educator out there to imerse themselves in PD.  I find PD does two things for me.  First, it obviously gives you a break from your students and your classroom where the stress can mount quickly.  We all need adult interaction once in a while.  Second, I always get that refreshing feeling that we all need. I become armed with strategies to use in my classroom and it almost feels like a coach has given me a pep talk.  Once again, I am ready to go!

Besides professional development, I encourage anyone to write.  Writing has helped me so much since being part of the National Writing Project. Troy Hicks, our site director, was intense and challenged us all.  I am the writer today and the teacher I am today because of him and the National Writing Project.  Writing is a great outlet to express your feeling and your ideas.  In addition, it makes you feel better when you are done getting your thoughts down on paper.  Writing can take the form of a poem, journal, song, etc.  I even encourage you to enter a writing contest.  There are plenty of them out there.  Figment.com is a great website that hosts plenty of writing contests. 

If professional development and writing don’t sound the most appealing, I encourage you to start a book club with friends or colleagues with a New York Time’s bestseller, or any other book that may be of interest.  If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea or might be too time consuming.  Befriend a colleague and go out for a nice dinner and perhaps vent to each other about the challenges you face in your classroom. 

Whatever avenue you choose to take to keep yourself motivated and doing your best as a teacher in your classroom, I know this time of year can be challenging.  Lean on each other professionally to help!

Cheers!