Thursday, August 12, 2010

How to Avoid The PD Monster

Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about...we have all been there. You've been stuck in professional development session for hours upon hours and you start getting a bit grumpy. Next thing you know, the ugly PD (professional development) monster rears it's head. What does this monster do? Well he is a very sneaky guy, he plants thoughts of doubt in your head like, "you're never gonna use this stuff....this is just a waste of time." So how do you battle this monster? Well here are the thoughts that I came up with today while I was sitting in professional development.
*Disclaimer - I understand that not all professional development is useful...just try to stick with me on this one*
  1. Don't be That Guy - You know the guy, he is the one that squirms in this chair like he is 4 years old and constantly mumbles negative comments under his breath, as if he needs another outlet to display to everyone that he is not happy at all about being there....this guy absolutely annoys me to no end. I understand that you may not want to be there, but I realize that complaining doesn't get you out of PD and it makes it worse for everyone at the table with you so....just please don't be that guy.
  2. Give The Presenter a Chance - It really kills me to see teachers who automatically dismiss what a presenter is saying before actually listening to what is being proposed. Many teachers will come to the decision that the material is not doable and that they simply will not be "doing it" within the first few minutes of the presenters opening remarks. To me if a district is spending money on a program or a presenter and wanting to implement change, it is disrespectful for us as teachers to dismiss their efforts immediately.
  3. If It's That Bad, Then find Something Productive to Do - This is my favorite. I always have a back up plan for every PD session I attend. I will take graduate work, classroom work, or just a pen and paper for writing blog posts. I would rather do something positive by being productive rather than allowing myself to be negative during a PD session.
After sitting through a very interesting professional development for two days, surrounded by very negative people, I was very inspired to address this topic. As I stated before, I understand that not all PD sessions are useful but the thing is that we are professionals. It may be a complete waste of time for me, but that doesn't mean that I have to feed the PD Monster by bringing all those around me down and being disrespectful to the person presenting.

For the last part of this post, I would like to hear your tricks for staying positive during PD sessions....or maybe even good PD stories.

Mr. McClung
Fayetteville, AR


Manaiakalani said...

Well said. In the New Zealand curriculum it states that our goal is to create "Confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners". I love it and I think it is a wonderful vision for students. But as a person who provides PD for teachers quite often, I believe that our curriculum vision is first and foremost wonderful for for teachers. And the "actively involved, lifelong learners" bit is where PD comes in. If you can't learn something from a session or a visit to another school - even if you really disagree and figure out what actually would be better - then you are not a lifelong learner.
But the reality is what you have described and some teachers don't seem to have caught on what lifelong learning entails.

jkmcclung said...

Really good point to make the connection to lifelong learning. I really feel like a lot of the people that I see in PD sessions that act like this are the ones who usually don't want to see change....well, maybe they want to see change but they don't want to facilitate it.

Janelle said...

The ugly monsters arising during PD!!! oh no...
I believe that teachers can be the worst audience and the hardest critics of their peers, especially when it comes to PD... which always amazes me and scares me! You would think educators would always be open to new ideas!! Not so. New ideas represent change. Change causes stress for most people but, can and should bring new energy, too. So... we must address the stressors and make sure that scaffolding and support are always available to allow change to take place in a non-threatening manner. Then, new energies and professional efficacies will arise!
Reflection is the other component that allows change and better practices to take place. Teachers need to feel free to experiment with new ideas... and reflect on how this fits into their values and professional dreams. I believe that the lens we bring to a PD session, can allow us to learn something in the worst of situations. We must bring a REFLECTIVE lens. If NOT, then we negatively impact those around us as well as create minds for growth! I think reflection is the key component for real professional growth. Some folks are not very reflective... which therefore makes a negative setting for others or if not negative... then just a blah blah blah.. I'll ignore this and it will go away attitude. Then there's ones that do not like to appear reflective, as they think this makes them appear weak and needy. (We must change environments if that is the case) Asking good questions and being curious leads up to being reflective. So... someone needs to do this during PD training as a model, it it's not happening naturally. I believe that when we are exposed to PD, good or bad, timely or untimely... the reflection of what we are doing as professionals compared to what we need, our curiosities and seeking of what we want should lead us to new growth and deeper thinking about our practices. What areas can I improve upon in my own professional life? Am I satisfied with my results and my day to day experiences? Bringing this reflective lens will allow us to see that there is always something to learn and allow one to be OPEN to new ideas... (even if one believes they have the best ideas...) As a reflective professional, I'm never satisfied with what I know, how to do thingsn not to mention the never-ending quest for what possibilities are out there! So again... I guess the question for me is how can we get people to reflect on their own practice and make meaning and connections to new ideas based within their own practice. Here are a few answers possibly... real Professional Learning Communities that have the students best interest in mind, teacher leaders spread throughout systems, educators who feel empowered and worthy, safe environments, admin support for peer collaboration, instructional coaches, structures that support such as schedules and TIME, mentors, effective technology tools/training and on-going support... and I'm sure there's more!

John Hadley Strange said...

And our students often display the same attitudes. I had two PD sessions this summer. I dreaded both. And yet, both were, overall, very helpful. I am already using some of the materials and ideas from both. Thanks for giving us a kick in the rear - which I certainly needed!