“There are no good PD opportunities,” said teachers, everywhere.
“There is no point to this workshop,” a grade level sitting together, checking their Facebook pages commented.
A teacher with a double latte from Starbucks, rushes in 10 minutes late, “traffic was horrible this morning.”
Isn’t this usually the way? We sit in on Professional Development opportunities and say to ourselves, “I already know this, what a waste of time.” It happens all the time, just eavesdrop in the faculty room, you’ll hear this common conversation between frustrated colleagues. I’ve done it.
Perhaps it isn’t just the Professional Development opportunities that need the complete overhaul but rather, the perspective with which we approach these opportunities. Just hear me out before you move on.
The first time I attended a Summer Writing Institute at Teacher’s College in New York City, my first session began with a bit of a “mini lecture,” if you will, from Lucy Calkins.
She said something to the effect of, “you have a choice over the next week, you can sit there and complain that you already do this or already know that or you can open your minds and your hearts and try to take away as much as possible. Even if you know this or tried that, this week can strengthen that and you can then take the new information and implement it so much quicker, so much more effectively.” This is by no means a direct quote from Ms. Calkins, but it is a paraphrase of advice I received and have held tightly to each time I attend any type of PD opportunity. I also try to encourage others, every chance I get, to “just listen, just try, something might be valuable.”
After all, we are professionals. We are educators. One of these moments sitting in a professional development opportunity just might be the time an idea is sparked that changes the direction of your teaching journey, therefore, changing the life of one you teach.
How about this (WARNING, the following is a bit sarcastic) try putting all of your attention into the 40 minutes of allotted time you need to be there anyway. Or, how about this, you show the presenter the same undivided attention and respect you expect from your own students. Here’s a good one, when asked to give it a try instead of checking your Facebook or email, turn and talk and actually participate. Wait, this is a novel idea, if you don’t agree, speak up, let your voice be heard. If you say nothing and do nothing, then nothing changes. Silence is going to be interpreted as acceptance.
Don’t get me wrong, I have most certainly wanted to scratch my eyes out instead of hanging in until the end of an In-Service Day or an after-school workshop. I get that. Just like our students get that horrible, boring lesson that we wouldn’t give up on. But sometimes, a lot of times, the opportunities are really good ones.
You have the choice, once you are “forced” to attend any given opportunity. Sit there, sit up tall, listen with an open-mind, participate, try, disagree, contribute. Walk away with at the very least, a sense of pride for how hard you tried to get something out of it. At least one little thing.
So next time the opportunity comes knocking, make a conscious decision, get to one side of the road, either take it or leave it.