Monday, August 24, 2009

Making it count

Today I had the opportunity to attend a professional development day for early childhood educators in my district on the math curriculum that they are rolling out. Just in case anyone in the blogosphere is wondering, I have been teaching math to my students. Math that has been based on the state wide early childhood learning standards, that is developmentally appropriate for my students, challenging enough for those who need a challenge and taught as part of an integrated curriculum.

I was not engaged with the training. None of the ideas seemed new to me. The activities that we had to role play in our workshop were variations of activities I had done in the past. I tried to focus but I kept overhearing bits and pieces of the room next door. I daydreamed about the beach. I listened carefully for new, inspiring nuggets of information. A phrase from that instructor or a question from a colleague that would set off a firestorm of ideas. No such luck.

I think many of my colleagues were similarly disengaged. People were knitting. A few were texting. Many were talking quietly amongst themselves. Some were staring at the ceiling. Part of the time was devoted to clarifying some department specific logistics. Part of the time was spent on an extra long lunch. Part of the time was spent pretending to be children and doing the math activities. Part of the time was spent eavesdropping on the other training. Part of the time was spent making materials that many of us already had made in past school years. The last part of time was spent waiting for the time to be over so we could collect our certificates. Waiting for the time to be over is the worse part.

There has to be a better way to provide professional development for teachers. I want to be engaged. I want to learn. I want my thinking to be challenged and I want to feel like the time I am putting into attending these trainings is valuable and relevant to my teaching. I don't want to attend what feels like a marketing presentation, and I don't want to spend time acting like a 4 year old.

What does effective professional development look like? How do you engage teachers effectively? What factors help teachers retain information and apply it in their classrooms? As a large urban school district, what is the best way for various administrators to communicate with a large group of teachers? How can basic information be shared without taking up time during professional development activities when half of the teachers can not or do not respond to email?

Maybe when I know the answers to some of these questions I will do one of two things: write about it here on this blog, or actually give professional development on how to give effective professional development.

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