What Teachers CAN Learn From Professional Development

Today, my district did a half-day release and then had an inservice in the afternoon. As is the case with most professional development, many of my colleagues were not looking forward to it. The district brought in a company to continue our development with Common Core, so I saw more value in it than many other sessions I’ve sat through. But, I figured some of the things that would be presented were things that I already knew, making me somewhat apprehensive of the afternoon.

In my years of teaching, I’ve sat through “Schemes, Scams, and Flim-Flams” in which we were told how to protect our identities. There was the two-hour presentation about how valuable visual aids are that NEVER USED A VISUAL AID! There are many others, but I can see why my colleagues, and me somewhat, were not looking forward to the inservice. Some teachers were also put into groups that are not directly related to their curricular area. For example, I had more than just math teachers in my session. I can see how these people had problems finding value in the session.

As I sat there though, I thought that all of us should probably bottle up any feelings and  frustrations we felt so we never forget it. Whether it was lack of relevance, seeing something you already knew, or other things we were thinking, now we know how students often feel. We are mature, professional adults who probably did well in school, and yet we still struggle to sit through some of these inservices. Imagine how a thirteen-year-old student feels.

I think of my class where we sometimes have to go over things time and time again when some students learn it right away. I always try my best to differentiate, but I am by no means where I should be with the practice. Then there are the non-math people in the math session thinking to themselves, “When am I ever going to use this?” Sound familiar? Another thing I’ve thought during meetings is, “Could this have been given to me through an email instead of sitting here?” This is what motivated me to start flipping my class, especially with basic concepts that don’t require an entire lesson.

Whatever it may be, try to make your class something you would like to sit through. I’ve seen colleagues do great things by being funny, singing, or whatever makes their class their own, in order to motivate students, and it works. But, if you sit in your next inservice or meeting wishing you could leave, find what makes you feel that way and be sure you don’t do it in your class.

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Mission Two: Twitter Me This

For the “Explore the MTBoS” mission this week, we were urged to use Twitter either for the first time, or in a new way that we haven’t tried before. There was a list of things to try, many of which I did. However, the one thing I really wanted to try was participating in a chat.

I took part in the #iledchat that occurs every Monday night from 9-10 PM CST. The topic this week was “Connected Education.” Most of the questions centered around the use of Twitter in the classroom and professionally. I answered some of the questions, but some of them I really had no good answer.

During the chat, I did follow a few new people and gained a few followers. I already use Twitter often and follow many different math people. I’ve never used Twitter in my classroom and the chat did make me at least consider it. I also interacted with a few people on Twitter who I normally just follow and read their posts, so I guess the mission was a success!

 

Mission 1: Just One Thing That Makes Me Unique

About a month ago, a Dan Meyer post rolled across Feedly that intrigued me greatly.  The post was entitled “Explore the Math/Twitter Blogosphere.” I had been reading things about the MTBoS lately, good and bad, but didn’t know enough to have any opinion. So, what better thing to do than to explore the MTBoS through “eight weeks of fun missions and prompts.”

My first prompt is:

  • What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!

There are some different things I am trying this year in my classroom. For example, the idea of “flipping,” cooperative learning, inquiry-based learning, and Common Core just to name a few. But the one unique thing about me that I am most proud of is doing this right here. I love writing about teaching. I look forward to any chance I get to reflect and discuss with other teachers from all over. As far as I know, I am the only teacher in my building, and possibly my district, that frequently writes blog posts. Sometimes I write about what is going on in my class, something new I’ve learned through Common Core, or something I’m just having an opinion on at the time. I enjoy participating in Twitter chats and discussing posts on Google+. While every other person I know is watching “Breaking Bad” or the newest movie or TV show, I’m reading about teaching or participating in a teaching chat or reading a book about teaching. If I were to be completely honest with you, I can’t get enough of it.

So, for my first  “Exploring the MTBoS” mission about what makes me unique, I’m doing the very thing that makes me unique. I’m taking part in a huge online group, discussing what I do and what others do, hoping to be a better teacher when I’m finished.