The article linked to above was brought to my attention by the Mid-Del Public Schools Foundation, with the comment that I might have something to add. What a high compliment indeed! Seeing as this was a post on Facebook, I knew I wouldn't have enough space to answer there. Fortunately for me, I have my very own blog I can use. :D
Reading that article made me think about what I would tell a first year teacher about professional development. What could I offer to someone in the position that this young teacher was in? What would it be like to be in place where there was such dissatisfaction with the profession and such bitterness? I am very fortunate that I am not and have never been in such a position. However, I know that it happens. I expect it will be happening more and more as the "reformers" get their way. So, what do I tell that young teacher?
1. It all starts with an attitude. You notice I don't say it starts with a good attitude. I mean it starts with an ATTITUDE! There is strength in attitude, and you are going to need all of it you can get. Teaching is not easy. It will challenge you in ways that you never expected. It will tug at your heart strings, and it will frustrate you to no end. Your students will challenge every belief you hold. They will test you, annoy you and challenge you. They will also love you unconditionally, celebrate your every achievement and depend on you for more than you ever thought they would. For some, you are the only constant. For some, you are the only one who shows them love. For some, you are the only one who listens to them. For some, you are the only one who teaches them. At least for the short time you have them. What does this have to do with Professional Development? Everything. Because THEY are why you do it. Not your administrators, not the politicians, not your friends, family or colleagues. Your students are the ones you work for. In the end, remembering that will get you through all kinds of trials.
2. Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something, and don't be afraid to show your students that you don't know it -- yet. Search out opportunities to increase your knowledge. You will find that it will make your teaching more effective when you can follow the rabbit trails your students will lead you on. Then you can re-direct your teaching to include their interests, or you can re-direct your students thinking so that they are no longer following an incorrect trail.
Don't be afraid to go alone. You may not be able to find anyone to attend a Professional Development program with you. Go anyway. You will make connections there that you might not have if you were there with others you know. It will pull you out of your comfort zone, and that is necessary for growth.
Don't be afraid to try something new. It may or may not work, but whatever happens you will have learned something - and so will your students. Bring something back from every program you attend and try it in the classroom. You never know what might strike a chord in your students. You may reach them in a way you never could have before.
Don't be afraid to lead. You may not be a veteran teacher - yet - but you still have something to offer. Share what you learn from the programs you attend. Be willing to help others do what you are doing, and always make the time. The more open you are with your ideas and your time, the better chance you have at being able to change those bitter attitudes. On the flip side, be willing to listen. Veteran teachers have put in the time - they know their stuff.
|Standing in the cupola at Mt. Vernon|
4. Have an open mind. You may teach a defined curriculum, but you don't have to restrict yourself to what you teach. Be flexible in both the content and the grade level of the professional development you find. You can always adapt what you learn to what you teach, and it will show your kids that learning is a never ending process. Some of my best lessons for my elementary school classroom have come from high school level professional development.
|Freddy is looking at the sun (and yes, I did too!)|
I don't know how encouraging all of that is. It makes it look like a lot of work. I suppose it is, but you have such a good time doing it, who cares!
The original article was more about how professional development needs to change. I have some suggestions about that, too. However, that will have to be another blog post. My point here is that maybe some of it does, but often times it is the attitude of the teachers that make the difference. If every teacher makes the effort to become engaged in every professional development they attend, the entire issue would be moot. If one teacher makes the effort and shares that spark, it will travel. Maybe not quickly, and maybe not to everyone, but it will travel.