I came across a tweet this morning by a Director of Curriculum (for terminology’s sake, let’s just call the person an administrator) that said this:
“Educators are responsible for their own professional development. You can’t and shouldn’t rely on someone else for YOUR growth.”
I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with this statement.
Obviously, if you are going to stay in touch with changes in the profession, you are going to have to put some time of your own into your own growth. I see music teachers all over the country (and world!) doing this at music conferences, off-season workshops, and simple personal investigation.
However, when your administration begins to suggest that professional development is solely your responsibility, it means that they are no longer spending finances on professional development–or are spending professional development on “pet programs” in your district/school (you choose the acronym). Not that there is anything wrong with those Acronym programs, but your school is MORE than just those programs. My school district, as a whole, is doing these things, too. The intent is good: teachers find their own areas of weakness and spend their own time developing their skills, or they share their skills with others at district Ed Camps. And your school/district may even pay $25 or $50 to a teacher for attending an Ed Camp. However, be aware that this is a tremendously small investment compared to programming half days or full days of training. Ed Camps are great, but they shouldn’t be a replacement for Professional Development days in your district.
Now…I’m not going to pretend that all training days are equal…there are a lot of factors that can make or break a training day, and I have even experienced bad training days from SMART and Apple Certified Training. What becomes crucial, to me, is that districts (and schools) set aside time for training that doesn’t impede into a teacher’s personal time, or grading time, or time away from school.
If you are reading this post, you are most likely a teacher, and you work very hard at what you do, regardless of grade level. You put hours upon hours above the call of duty into your profession, and you likely take that time out of your personal time or your family time, and you are never compensated for that time. Chances are you haven’t had a true wage increase that matches the rate of inflation since before Clinton was in office. To put 100% of the responsibility of professional development on you (without any thought of compensation) is a very bad thing; and it wouldn’t be tolerated in any other profession. Mechanics are sent to and paid to attend training sessions; doctors are sent to and paid to go to medical conferences; pilots and airline employees are sent to refresher training. Why would education be any different?
In my prior school, I watched as a complete three year plan for integrating SMART Boards dissolved after year one because all funds for training (mainly meaning time for teachers to get out of class for training) disappeared. I have seen other schools soar with technology initiatives because they purposely made time for teachers to get training during school hours. I come back to a standing philosophy of mine: successful technology integration requires continual training. We sometimes feel that students are losing out when a teacher is out of the classroom for training, but realistically, students may be missing out if teachers aren’t out of the classroom for training.
As much as you need to invest in yourself and the things that interest you in connection with your job–your school/district needs to support your professional development, too.
Note: my school makes an effort to provide time for professional development for staff, but not all schools do the same in our same district, and sometimes professional development funds (always earmarked) are used for special acronym programs instead of being distributed among all teachers.