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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