I spent my Friday meeting with most of my teachers for the mid year check in of their professional growth plans. It was a great way to spend the day and I love spending time getting to know my staff. We rarely have opportunities that are not rushed or focused on too many things. We talked about their goals and how they thought things were going in their classrooms, with their students and in our school. Our conversations often turned to professional development opportunities which got me thinking of the best way to meet all of their individual needs.
Our school division provides many opportunities for PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities). Teachers can apply twice a year for funding to support PLC learning opportunities and many of the teachers in my school participate in these groups. The feedback from these PLC`s are mostly positive, when the teachers have been allowed some freedom to take their discussions and learning in a self-directed way.
Most of the negative feedback coming from my teachers happens when they feel self-direction of the learning is not there and emphasis is put on planning and paper work expectations.
It is difficult for school divisions to plan large group professional development that meets the needs of all teachers. I find that often the learning and discussion is geared toward the group of teachers that are near the bottom with their level of understanding. I supposed it is planned this way with the hope that more teachers will gain an understanding of the presented initiative. The affect it often has on those that are beyond the level of the presentation is that they leave feeling frustrated and like their needs have not been met.
Very few teachers really have the opportunity to attend big, national conferences where you can join in conversations and pick sessions that are directed at your learning needs.
So what now…?
My thought is… why are we waiting for someone to provide learning opportunities for us that meet our distinct needs as individual teachers. As I stated in my last post, the best professional development I have is coming straight to me every day from the personal learning network that I have created. It is self-directed and conversations always circulate around topics directly related to my personal needs. I can join with my PLN at times that work well for me and the opportunity is always available to me to be learning from a wide variety of perspectives and experiences.
When looking through my twitter feed today I came across a link posted by Tom Whitby to a post he has written titled “Are Education Conferences Relevant”. In his post Tom stated, “We are professional educators who need to do a better job educating ourselves as educators. If we are to better educate kids, we need to better educate their educators.”
What I would advise my teachers to do if they really want to be in charge of their own learning is to start to build their own learning networks. It truly is the most valuable learning opportunity I have ever been involved in. Any thoughts?