In a post today, Scott at Dangerously Irrelevant manages to hit an assortment of my pet peeves when it comes to staff development for educators.
Yet what does staff development look like in most school districts? Typically it involves three or four one-shot “sit and get” (or “spray and pray”) sessions spread across the year, each on a different topic than the one before, that are attended by most or all educators in the organization. A “one size fits all” model is used, meaning that there is relatively little differentiation between, say, music teachers and math teachers and industrial arts teachers. Sometimes schools spice it up a bit and have a buffet day where educators can pick from multiple choices throughout the day, much like a professional conference.
Rarely is there follow-up. Rarely is there sustained, focused conversation about a specific learning issue over time.
However, he left out one of the worst aspects of professional development for educators: teachers are often penalized for attending.
In our overly-large school district (and I’m sure many others), teachers must get their training on their own time and often using their own money.
Think about how well prepared your kids would be if they had to work all day and then begin their learning at 4 in the afternoon.
And then, unfortunately, in many cases the motivation for attending is a pay increase, not necessarily professional improvement.
Even when training occurs during the school day, preparing for a substitute (and cleaning up after the sub is gone) is often more extra work than the professional development session is worth.
Then there’s the situation where many principals discourage teachers, directly or indirectly, from being out of the classroom, for any reason.
However, my rants and Scott’s discussion are all part of the general negative attitude towards professional development that seems ingrained in American education.
We put a great deal of planning into the learning of our students. We even create individual educational plans (IEP) for special education students and there is a growing trend to do the same for all students.
But we allow the learning of their teachers after college, and sometimes an induction program, to be almost entirely up to chance.
Isn’t it about time every educator had an IEP? A professional growth plan that fits their needs and which is embedded as a normal part of the workday.
Now that would lead to teachers being “highly qualified” faster than anything in NCLB.