Why Teachers Need To Start Their Own Professional Development

With our current school structure, it’s no wonder teachers are creating our own PDs outside of whatever our school districts offer us. Not only do we lack a real sense of what professional teachers need / want, but we’re still under an archaic model where we believe student learning is linear instead of jagged, oft scattered progressions. If they progress at all.

In school structures today, we have slots for different types of days off. Besides the summers and holidays, we can take sick leaves or personal days, each with their own set of regulations we must absolutely and utterly adhere to, including doctor’s notes and the like. Professional development comes in many forms, but schools have often had to find ways to provide it, whether through scheduling teaching experts in their own schools or letting a set of teachers go to a “paid” professional development session somewhere out there. Big conferences and small meetings all technically go towards the same goal, and that is to help teachers develop skills and transfer it to their students, perhaps sharing things from those meetings.

Yet, there’s a new type of professional development that’s arisen from connected educators. I’m calling it a third-rail professional development, a hybrid of tech saavvy and a healthy dose of networking can make for professional development that neither stagnates nor overbears. The thing with PD right now is that, no matter how creative central offices try to be, teachers still come out of them feeling like they learned nothing of substance when they hoped for at least a nugget of information. Principals want something tangible to come from these meetings, often choosing only a select group of people to attend these things and expecting a boost of some nature from kids.

Yet, those of us who see this third possibility, the hybrid, aren’t always given either the professional respect or the space to pursue this. Being at the forefront of any movement is tough, but we have to push an agenda that validates our efforts as teachers.

Of course, the question is, “Vilson, so if that’s the case, don’t students suffer when teachers are out of the building for an extended period of time? Shouldn’t students always have the teacher in front of them in order to learn?” This philosophy has plenty of holes, but I’ll only address one: why do we have school structures that allow teachers to follow a prescribed set of PD sessions and miss as many days as they please, but doesn’t allow for teachers to create their individualized PD plan at no additional cost to the school?

It’s bizarre, and perhaps you all can help me think this through. In the meantime, the wedge I sit in between teaching and leading continues to wax and wane by the day …