Opportunity: Take It or Leave It

“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.

By @DonnaADonner

6 thoughts on “Opportunity: Take It or Leave It

  1. Great post. This is a great reminder that it is our professional obligation to try and constantly improve. Sometimes, we need to dig deep and really pay attention in order for that to happen. I love the sentence about at least paying attention like you request of your students. Teachers are, for the most part, terrible in the audience. I think your comments are dead on. Well done.

  2. When it comes to PD all of the responsibility does not fall on the educator learners. As educators we are all well trained and well versed in pedagogy, which addresses how children learn. It is only natural to assume that, as educated educators when it come to teaching anyone, all that we know of and have been taught about pedagogy should hold true for any learners. This however is a broad-based assumption that is not based in fact. It doesn’t work well with adults.
    Andragogy addresses adult learning. It is very different from pedagogy in many ways. If, as educators, we try to teach our ADULT learners based on pedagogy and methodology which does not address their learning in a way that they will get it and use it, the best positive attitudes may not be as helpful as we would like to believe.
    Adults want to control their learning. They learn best through informal collaboration, conversation. They want to be able to learn something today, and use it tomorrow. Adults trust people who have real life experience in what they are teaching. If we take into account how adults learn and begin to apply that to PD, maybe we could be more effective in teaching educators to teach. Too often educators’ attitudes are a reflection of the failures of their past PD encounters. If we can end the failures, maybe the attitudes will improve. If we are to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators.

  3. In the main, seeing the opportunity for professional listening or dialogue, actually does consolidates the old strategies. I don’t know how many times, I’ve used something for a while & then forgotten about it, falling back into the old rut. Like our students we need to revisit stuff to move it from novelty into habit/practice.

  4. I agree. Educators have very little control over their PD and tend to be a captive audience. That is certainly another conversation ~ meaningful PD.
    Time is a huge factor, and I respect the idea that we as educators want to be able to use our PD immediately. However, learning is a continuous process and with all due respect, sometimes we need to be patient and respectful of the process to grow in our profession.
    How do we undo the failures of PD’s of the past? It is a cycle that never seems to change for the good.
    You make excellent points and they are not to be disputed. With that said, I do not want my point to be misconstrued, sometimes we need to be reminded that there are good opportunities all around us, even if they do not come in the fashion we choose.
    Thank you for your response and for pointing out the disconnect between PD opportunities and the needs of the adult learner.

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