The past two years as Math Specialist, I was in a position in which I was continually planning and attending Professional Development on a regular basis. I am a learner, so I frequently got frustrated and a bit upset when teachers complained about attending the PD. I would hear such things as, “I need time to grade my papers” or “Sub plans are such a pain to write.” How could they not love these learning experiences as much as me?
Fast forward to this year, I am back into the classroom, and I completely feel their frustrations. I have papers that need to be graded, I despise sub plans, and most importantly, l have lesson plans that I need time to think about & dig deeper into. Time, as always, is a high commodity. So, as I was in my classroom Thursday evening, writing sub plans (or more accurately procrastinating by finding anything in my classroom that needed to be done BESIDES writing the plans) I found myself thinking that it would be so much easier to not attend the PD (it was by choice I was going) and just stay in the classroom on Friday. No sub plans, and I would have my planning time to get the paper grading and lesson planning done.
This was it, this is the point where teachers (me included) need to step out of their immediate surroundings, look at the bigger picture, and ask themselves the following questions….
1. How can I continue to improve student learning in my classroom if I don’t dig deeper into my content area(s)?
2. How can I grow as an educator alone?
3. How can reflecting on my own teaching with others improve my classroom experiences?
4. How can what I know about teaching help others in my network?
5. There is always SO much more to learn. Not a question, I know, but it is my driving force as an educator.
And….How great is it to have breakfast and lunch made for me and I can use the bathroom anytime I want 🙂
Needless to say, I always try to attend professional development when offered the opportunity and after leaving my PD on Friday I just found myself smiling. I love talking to others with the same passion for mathematics and teaching as myself. I learn so much and just flat out have fun while talking about impactful issues in education. We all want what is best for our students and staff and work together to make great things happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I am picky when choosing my PD. It must be relevant. I have sat in a mandatory PD or two (hundred) that have not been what I needed, but I try to find at least one thing I can take away. Even through the bad experiences, I grow. If a presenter is not engaging, I think about what I can do when I facilitate to be engaging. If the content is confusing, I think about how I can clarify things when I facilitate a professional development. I don’t let one bad experience kill all professional development opportunities for me. They are independent variables, like a die. One roll does not impact the next. One bad professional development does not impact the next one.
In the end, I owe it to my students to go. If I am learning more, they will be learning more.
I know that this is not my original thought, but it bears repeating. When it comes to overcoming the obstacles you describe above (sub plans, grading , etc.) there is another you did not mention that is worth rebutting. I used to feel (and many others still do) that I was shortchanging my students simply by not being there. I felt I owed them my energy first and then I should take care of myself later. I was in a class discussing PD and the text used the following analogy – On an airline when you receive your safety instructions about what to do in case of emergency you are instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before helping children or elderly with you. You are instructed to take care of yourself so that you can better care for others. This is a powerful message and one that should be repeated over and over again. While I want to believe that every day I am in school I am helping to create something special and meaningful for my students, I need to recognize that my absence for a day won’t cripple them and the extra work int he short term won’t cripple me.
I absolutely love that airplane analogy and I 100% agree that we owe it to them to attend professional development. It is difficult at times to look past the daily impact to the bigger picture. The driving point of my questions was that my growth, in turn, impacts my students in a positive way.
As always, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!
You’re right and I should have been more explicit in completing my thought. Taking care of ourselves makes it MUCH more likely that we can take care of others. In the case of learning through PD, I also think that we are being positive role models when we continue to push and learn in a transparent and public way. Our students are more likely to take learning seriously when they see that we do.