Walking that Professional Learning Line

We finally are feeling the pains of the awaited teacher shortage. With people leaving the profession in droves for a variety of reasons, we now see a huge push for professional learning in order to take the new teachers, the pre-service teachers, the emergency cert teachers, and those who need to know more about current teaching practices and tools to a sustainable level of knowledge in order to run their learning spaces. That’s one tall order.

The trend I see is similar to when the use of digital resources became almost mandated in daily instructional practice. We went through training after training on how to use the resources, but workshops where we are actually shown how to use the resources with students in classes was few and far between to really begin with. The same trend really holds true still for district or school mandated professional learning. It’s a one size fits all situation where teachers who may never even use the models that are presented are forced to sit though “just in case” they were to ever come across it during the school day. We’ve heard the jokes about how our time is wasted sitting in these day long workshops, but it’s really not funny. So there in lies a question, how can we create customized, engaging, and worthwhile professional learning opportunities for all, that relevant for everyone in the room?

Learning is customized, learning is relevant, learning is experiential. We don’t teach every student in the class the same way, why is that expected of a teacher during a PD Day? Having someone come in for an hour to talk about a product that everyone is going to use might be a great way to start the day, but then you break it off into their respective groups to dive into more of what they need.

So what are some things to keep in mind as you develop some professional learning opportunities?

  1. Customize it, if you have to do a mass workshop with a lot of different audience members, send out a survey or poll beforehand to gauge what they are looking for so you can try to reach everyone.
  2. Leave time to explore, far too often I see a workshop turn into a lecture and I sit there at the end with a little bit of drool hanging from my mouth because I started spacing out halfway through the entire thing. Not because I wanted to, but because I have the attention span of a toddler and if I can’t get hands on with it and try it for myself I’m probably going to stop paying attention. Set time aside to allow teachers to purposefully play with each other and find how it all operates.
  3. Don’t be afraid to do this in chunks. A straight 6 hour workshop we all know is know going to be helpful in any way. The presenters probably hate it as much as the teachers. Just don’t do it. Plan something for a couple of hours, then maybe give them time to debrief or move on to another topic. If you want, have presenters do a couple hour workshop on one day, then come back another time to follow up and answer questions.
  4. Let the teachers lead. Have a good old fashion day of learning where the teachers in your schools actually share what they do and their best practices. The ones who sometimes know the most, are right underneath your nose. Don’t leave them out, teachers in your school learning from other teachers in your school has potential for a powerful core memory.
  5. Have patience, not everyone learns the same way or at the same speed. Sometimes you are going to need to circle back for others to make sure everyone grasps the materials.

What kinds of PD days have you had recently? The good and the bad?

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