As a teacher, I too often complain about Professional Development activities that take place at my school, and in my educational community. For me, when I come to Pro-D events I may play on my Ipad, text on my phone, maybe even mark or do assessments during the presentation. I awkwardly become my disengaged students in my classes, the students I sometimes get frustrated with. I too at times may blame the presenter (death by Power-Point, no interaction, no voice/volume control), but as an adult learner I should know better right? Then the whole idea of teachers being overly critical of other educators as they present starts to sweep in. Why am I being so judgmental? I ask my students to open their minds to new learning opportunities, but close my mind off at some of these events. I challenge my students to take risks, but judge the presenter as they take a risk sharing their ideas with my colleagues and I. Walking out of a Pro-D event, I was asked if I had learned anything, and I answered "No" (I sounded like my students or my son when he comes home from school). I mean I had already heard a lot about implementing technology in the classroom, but did I not hear something new? Was there a question asked that did not deserve some inquiry? Then I came to the realization that my Professional Development woes had nothing to do with Professional Development or its presenters, but with my learning and professional development mind shift. Like other teachers, I continuously choose Pro D events that either fit my teaching area or offers some type of answer or skill set that is applicable to my teaching area or practice.
For example, when I taught physical education, I only went to Physical Education workshops. What changed for me over the last year was this mind-shift that Professional Development can take place in any workshop if you allow yourself to open your mind to learning. Not just learning about what you want or need to know! But to learn for the sake of just learning. I started to try different Pro-D development workshops, some that were further away from teachable areas. I took one on literacy interventions (primary-based), I sat through one on Genius Hour, I sat through Science education Pro-D's and what I got out of it was that "there are a lot of amazing ways to teach and learn in classrooms". I may not have agreed, or embraced some of the ideas being presented (as I do not teach primary or science) but the presenters made me think about what I can do to change my practice. Watching a science Pro-D about integrating more hands on-lab time was truly amazing. The presenter pointed out that Science should not be taught in class with just text books but that students should be using labs to explore and learn about chemistry, physics, earth science and biology. It made me re-evaluate how I teach my classes- Were notes, Power-Point lectures, and videos the best way to engage my students when teaching Social Studies? or should I have them interactively learning historical concepts through drama, plays, re-enactments?
This dialogue led to me re-shaping my views of who I was in the classroom and what I could be doing differently. The presenters did not know, but they invoked inquiring questions that made me challenge what I was currently doing in my classroom. I mean, I sat through one presentation that talked about the best tool's or apps on an Ipad and wondered "why was it so important to integrate Ipads in the classroom"? From this question, I went many different ways from student-engagement, to its the new way to teach, back to is this really important to my practice? I love technology, and I integrate it in the classroom as much as I can, but I find that my students learn more primarily through collaboration and class discussions. Though many of my students can manipulate through computer software easily, and can create "mean" presentation programs that infuse pictures, music and video files, most of them only use technology to retrieve and find information easily.
The thing is, I would not have thought about all of this and reflected about it if I had not gone to that Professional Development. The value is not so much in the new resource or skill set as it is in the inspiration and knowledge of the educator who is passionate about their work. By seeing their teaching practice I can confirm,retool and re-shape my teaching practice, in other words, I can professionally develop. So the next time you are choosing workshops, choose something out of your comfort zone, try something new, and challenge yourself to be conscious as to how this workshop can reshape your practice. Open-mindedness, risk-taking, optimism and growth must be the values to change how you look at Professional Development.