Successful professional development requires an instructor who recognizes the valuable nature of teachers’ time, and it requires an indispensable idea which can easily be implemented in the classroom. As a teacher, much of what I have sat through is neither professional nor conducive for development, and much of my limited time has been wasted. In many sessions, I have felt much like an anxious student just waiting for that bell to ring so that I could be free.
All teachers have felt the frustration of sitting through an unneeded class while the never-ending To Do List marched ominously through their minds. Whether an administrator requires the development or the death knell of a certifcation lapse prompts the attendance, it is essential that those who are presenting the information be cognizant of time by maximizing the core of the material and minimizing the extraneous information. I have nothing but praise for our county’s English/Language Arts facilitator who felt it unnecessary that all of her teachers travel to a nearby city for our contact day at the beginning of this school year. Instead, she created a video that presented the vital information and each school’s English departments met together at their own school for the information. This is fresh thinking and welcomed in a day of high gas prices and work overload.
Much of what claims to be professional development could be condensed into an e-mail or a short video presentation. By keeping in mind that they are providing a service to teachers and by recognizing how much teachers value their time, instructors should be able to condense and focus their presentation in such a way that a teacher walks away with a spring in her step rather than a monkey on her back.
Another professional development headache stems from great ideas that don’t apply. I recently sat through a classroom management class taught by an elementary school teacher, who I’m sure excelled in her field, but the problem was that most of us in the class taught middle or high school. (I’m still trying to figure out how to make earning a “jolly bear” desirable for 14 year olds.) One of the most important skills an instructor needs is the ability to make the material relevant in the trenches. Many ideas look wonderful on paper (if I had a dime for every educational theory. . .), but in the real world, where desperate times require desperate measures, teachers want ideas that work, that are easily understood, and that accomplish the task for which they are designed. Professional development demands professional instructors, and while I am happy to exchange ideas with my fellow teachers in a less than formal way, when I attend a seminar, I expect the presenter to be prepared, professional, and flexible with the class and the material.
Professional development has its place, and with a few tweaks, a little downsizing, and a measure of common sense, this permanent part of the career of an educator can become a more helpful process and one that is welcomed with the opened arms of a busy teacher.