Professional Development can be loaded words in Education. It can mean attending conferences and meeting with other teachers from across the Country, being exposed to new ideas, or it can be a one-size fits all training session that numbs the brain and crushes the soul. Professional development should be all about teachers and administrators engaging as learners themselves, and helping them grow as professionals in their field, learning about how to do their job even better, and make a difference in the lives of even the hard to reach children.
How do we make professional development more useful and engaging, and less like a dreaded chore? If you ask the same question using “student” instead of teacher, and ask how we can make the classroom a more engaging place for students, ideas seem endless. One of the key ways we can help PD become better is by differentiating the teacher learning, to more closely meet the needs of individuals and help them achieve their professional goals.
For example, a first year teacher may need much more help with classroom management and effective ways to differentiate lessons, where a more seasoned teacher might like more instruction on how to integrate technology into the classroom, in a way to serve the pedagogy and not distract from the underlying lesson goal.
At Ed Camps, sessions are posted and the participants are encouraged to attend sessions that look interesting, but to also use the “law of two feet” and leave a session that might not be what was expected and find something that will help, putting teachers in charge of their own learning. Many school districts are experimenting with PD days like this, and using talent from within the School and District to help teach colleagues. We have found sometimes that teacher-presenters like to share, but sometimes also find that their own educational needs are not met during these days.
How do you differentiate professional development in your school? How do you make sure your own professional development needs are met, even if the standard PD is “one size fits all”? What is your idea of perfect PD, that meets your needs, and helps you become a better professional?