I feel better just writing it and sending it to you.
Those were the words a friend wrote to me at the end of a recent email. I know the feeling. I feel better just writing it. I am continually amazed at the power of writing; the power of words; the inherently cathartic value of, and the repose gained from the act of, translating thought and emotion into words.
Today was a “Professional Development” day in my school district. The morning was spent in like groups across the district: content-specific, and in most cases, led by teachers within those groups. From what I heard from other colleagues, they really appreciated the time this morning to work with people toward common goals. I also had a fantastic morning! We were learning with each other, totally engaged, having fun, and immediately thinking about how we could bring these new ideas to our classrooms! I treasure time like this, because it truly helps me as a teacher; but more importantly, my students benefit greatly. I learn new ideas that help my students learn!After such a great morning, the afternoon was very disappointing. For over 3 hours, our entire building staff of elementary teachers examined test data and a specific strategy for classroom teachers. Every single teacher- including the teacher librarian, counselor, art teacher, music teacher, and physical education teacher- sifted through standardized test data. We reviewed a strategy that classroom teachers and interventionists should be using. By “review,” I mean we learned about what it is, what it is not, and then we took an informal quiz (thumbs up, thumbs down for True/False) about what the strategy is and what it is not. We watched a “skit” of the wrong way to apply these strategies, and then another skit of the right way. And then we reviewed some MORE. After that, we viewed actual data on students from different grade levels and decided how we would apply those strategies. We had another quiz about how to review the data. We talked about how important it is to differentiate for kids and to provide engaging activities, especially when the data shows they might be struggling with this one specific area of testing. Maybe my attitude about this afternoon was skewed by my intense distaste for emphasizing test data, but I really felt insulted by the amount of review and somewhat ridiculous quizzes. There was a lot of eye-rolling, and it wasn’t just me.Perhaps that afternoon doesn’t sound so awful to you, and I’m being purposefully vague to keep this post anonymous. But I watched the faces of the teachers in the room who were not classroom teachers. They don’t spend ANY time with this specific data, nor do they have a role in the strategy that we reviewed over and over and over. And even though they are all team players who are more than happy to do what is asked of them, THEIR time was not valued. We talked at length about how to differentiate for students, but there was no differentiation for the teachers. At most, all staff members need to be informed of whole school strategies. It’s important that, as team members, they are all on the same bus, so to speak. But when everyone is required to sit through more than three hours of professional development that is not directly relevant to each individual, a message is sent that our time is not valued. Alternatives were proposed for a few of those ‘specialists’, but then rejected under the premise that “everyone needs to hear this.”I’m really trying to focus on the positives of the morning today. In fact, I would say that overall, today was a great model of what to do for professional development, as well as what NOT to do. However, I’ve attended some edcamps and a lot of online professional development that I specifically seek out as relevant to me. Perhaps that is another reason that cookie cutter PD and meetings are so frustrating.Thanks for letting me rant a little.