Do we really need another professional development session on Google Docs*?

Do we really need another professional development session on how to implement the Common Core standards?

Do we really need another professional development session where we waste our time writing and revising hoop-jumping self-reports to ensure our accreditation (here, in California, they call it WASC–the Western Association of Schools and Colleges).

Sure, these things must be addressed.  And we should carve out time to do that.  But at least in my experience in the last decade or so, the professional development I have been offered is redundant, irrelevant, or simply isn’t about my profession nor my development as an educator.  

In my experience, the sessions where I get together with my peers are used to spoon feed us the latest circus that has come to town or to give us time to meet one of the aforementioned accreditation obligations.

Youtube can teach me how to use a Chromebook. 

Or I can ask our tech person when I have a question.  

And while making sure schools are doing what schools should be doing is critical, the current accreditation process is a joke and can go Forget Itself (I’m thinking of different word, but this is a family show, so I’ll say, “forget”).  

Send me a memo about the new fire alarm and lockdown policies; don’t use our professional developement time to read and explain the memo to me. 

Instead, find a way to send me to the last two conferences I asked to go to when my requests were denied.   I’m not certain, but I suspect the question employees at Microsoft and Apple ask is not, “Can I go to the conference?” but “Which conference sounds better?”  

In short, professional development and collaboration time should be used for, well, professional development.

When do I get to learn about how to teach better and within the current realities of my profession?

When do I get to learn strategies to deal with hunger, poverty, and abuse in my student population?

When I do I get to learn techniques for streamlining my teaching practice to accommodate forty students per class?

When do I get the time to write new curriculum with my peers that isn’t crammed into our one-hour a week collaboration time? (In fairness to my school, this one sometimes happens, but it’s rare. . .)

When do I get to see experts in my field, on-site workshops with leaders who love teaching and learning, who are trying new things, who are pushing the envelope in our industry in a way that will excite, motivate, and inspire me?

When do I get to do THAT in my professional development? 

Right now, for example, one of the top educational professional speakers in the world is Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate.  Dave worked at my school FOR NEARLY TWENTY YEARS and, at least at my school and district, we are never offered opportunities to see presenters of Dave’s caliber.

Why is that?

If your school or district offers you these types of opportunities, take advantage of them and never take them for granted. You are the lucky ones.

But please remember:  You also have a voice.

Encourage your professional development leaders to give you opportunities that are relevant to you as an educator, that fit your needs and your curiosity as teachers, that fulfill you both professionally and personally.

Ask them to design professional development that addresses your curiosities.

Ask them to design professional development that addresses your well-being.

Ask them to design professional development that addresses the realities of working in the classroom you toil in everyday.  

Ask (demand?) to be motivated, excited, and inspired by what is happening when you develop professionally.

Because you know what?  

Those opportunities will benefit The Powers That Be as well–even though they don’t realize it.

A challenged, fulfilled educator who can explore her curiosity is a happier, better, more highly-skilled educator.  

And not only is that better for the district.  It’s obviously better for students.

So now that it’s summer, reflect on what kind of professional development would benefit you.

Then ask.  Cajole.  Coerce.  Maybe even whine a little.

It may be too late to implement for the fall, but why not after that?

Seriously:  Do not settle for another workshop on how to do a screencast.

You know how to do a screencast.

Or you can learn how to do a screencast.

Probably from watching a screencast.

Ask for real professional development.

Tell them to stop wasting your time.  TZT

*I’m not trying to pick on educational technology in this piece; technology has been an indispensable addition to modern public education.  But at least in my experience, its pursuit and the chasing of the newest and most dazzling toy takes up an INORDINATE amount of professional development that should be shared among MANY possible topics that can make us better educators.