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/)

 

 



Understanding and Implementing the Common Core

Michigan is one of many states who have adopted the Common Core National Standards. More and more I read both negative and positive reviews of the CCSS. I am sure the more educators, professionals, and school districts unpack them, there will continue to be the emergence of these types of reviews. It isn’t a secret schools districts will be tested over the CCSS in 2014-2015. To me, schools will not be successful if they plan on implementing and reviewing the standards the year before they are being assessed. I am utterly shocked at the number of schools who have NOT implemented or even looked at the CCSS when my PD partner and I are delivering our breakdown of the informational writing standard. A word of advice to those schools; you better start.

In addition to districts and teachers themselves, I question what is happening at the university and college level in regard to the Common Core. For the past month I have had a mid-tier student in my classroom from a university/college that I will leave nameless in my blog. Mid-tier students have to complete so many hours of observation as part of the teacher-education program. These hours are completed before they begin their student-teaching. I remember having to do the same thing during my undergrad work. Last week my mid-tier and I were having a conversation about a lesson that needed to be taught in my classroom and after establishing it would be a lesson on grammar, I asked what they knew about the CCSS. The response I received just about knocked me down. Though they knew of them, they were not being discussed in the classes they were taking. According to my mid-tier our states Grade Level Content Expectations(GLCE) and something else called the high school content expectations(HSCE) was supposed to be the focus of the students. Now, how is not discussing the Common Core preparing new teachers for the classroom? I asked my mid-tier to go back and ask their teachers about the CCSS and why they weren’t being baptized into the world of the new National Standards.

The following week I had a follow-up conversation with my mid-tier and it according to them there seems to be a lot of finger pointing going on. Education professors are saying the English professors should be covering the CCSS and English professors claim the Education professors should be covering them. It seems we have a failure to communicate people! It’s obvious to me there is a problem. What is it? It’s not being taught. My mid-tier even brought it up in a class and other students wondered too why it wasn’t be addressed with them and the professor told them they wouldn’t be covering it at all. We aren’t doing young teachers-to-be any services if they aren’t being kept up to speed about curriculum and standards. Now, I am not attending these classes my mid-tier is taking, so I don’t know the whole story. All I know is something isn’t stirring the Kool-Aid. I did have an opportunity to fill out an online survey provided by the college/university and expressed my concern pertaining to the Common Core and I did receive an email back and was told my concerns would be addressed.

If individuals are under the impression the CCSS are going away, they are are wrong. The time is now to start thinking and acting and that does include individuals at the college level.

Cheers!