Saturday, May 18, 2019

Kim Frencken: What should professional development for teachers look like?

Years ago I was sent to a PD session about PD (You can't make this stuff up). The school district paid for subs, fed us a great catered meal, and then let us listen to a former-educator-turned-consultant about PD. The joke ended up being on the administrators. I remember listening in shock and disbelief and then turning to look at the row of administrators at the rear of the convention room. They all appeared to be whistling as they gazed at random spots on the ceiling. Small wonder. Their high priced PD guy was telling them that PD must be meaningful, not something that could be transmitted via an email, and PD must be on their time and dime.

I wanted to give the man a standing ovation, but, at the time, wasn't yet ready for retirement. He nailed it. PD that is meaningful. Wow, What a novel thought! Not just a "we have to have a meeting so we'll talk about random stuff to fulfill our obligation" but something really useful.

Not giving me 3 styrofoam cups with 3 markers, red, yellow, and green. Asking me to color them. Then showing me how a class set, purchased by yours truly and colored by yours truly, could be used to check for understanding. Not a lesson in how to roll up a colleague in toilet paper to build team trust.

 I always thought that was a waste of good toilet paper, which is not cheap. And, before you say, "She just made up the stupidest examples of PD," read first sentence, first paragraph (You can't make this stuff up).

On school time and dime. Now, there's a thought. Pay teachers for required PD and over-time. Ummm.... Where would such a bizarre thought come from? 

Apparently, it came from California. The same place as the former-educator-turned-consultant came from. The same place where he was a former teacher and administrator (I wonder if his educational philosophy was the reason he was formerly an administrator?). He was so passionate about his approach to PD, "

Administrators, show teachers how valuable they are by showing them that you, as an administrator, respect their time. And, take it a step further, protect that time. " Administrators should have a plan in place and when they don't... use built in PD time for teachers to work in their classroom. What a gift! He also advised administrators that the way to improve teacher retention is to have happy teachers. 

So, bottom line, if it is important enough for a teacher to learn and use in the classroom, it should be important enough for a school district to incorporate into their annual budget. 

In other words, if you want me to learn it and use it, don't send me to the discount store for styrofoam cups. Give me something that makes sense. Something that I can use. Something that you believe in enough to pay me to attend. Not something on my summer or week-end or after-school. Not numerous days out of the classroom away from my kids. Something that can be taught during a planned and paid for PD session.

And, yes, I followed the directions (this was in my pre-renegade days). I bought the cups. I colored them. I used them once. I tossed them. Did they work? Not so much.

(For more of Kim Frencken's writing, check out her blog, Chocolate For the Teacher.)

For more examples of horrible professional development, check out my novel about a year in a dysfnnctional school district, No Child Left Alive. The book is available locally at Changing Hands Book Shoppe and Always Buying Books in Joplin and Pat's Books in Carthage and in paperback and e-book formats from at the links below.

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