Tag Archives: teacher training

Professional Development – Perk or Priority?

The leadership team is meeting to review professional development plans for the teaching staff. Glancing over the dozens of applications, ‘Who gets to go to the conference this year?’ quips the primary principal. Cringe….

Who ‘gets’ to go? Right there in that session, is where that leadership team sets up the ‘culture’ for PD across the school. In the international school how easily PD can become a ’fringe benefit’, a ‘reward’, an entitlement – essentially a potentially expensive PERK. And when we design a PD program with PERK as the central idea, it’s pretty clear where that will NOT lead – to the real goal of PD, -improved learning through improved teaching.

We cheapen significantly the whole teaching profession with the ‘perk’ approach rather than as the essential PRIORITY it is for improving student learning. It’s not about who ‘gets to go’ to that conference in a sunny warm place in the dead of winter, or who ‘deserves’ it because of all their service, or whose ‘turn’ it is. It’s not about onsite days where the kids stay away, school provides lunch and gives teachers the latest ‘buzz word’ PD.

Professional development activities are the vital link between student learning and our growing understanding of what makes learning possible. Serious educational professionals pay attention to the latest understanding about how learning happens and seek out those specific opportunities which will help them translate that new understanding into classroom practice. And, yes, it can be both job-embedded or externally provided. They can both work, each generating unique benefits, when the premise is right. But when it isn’t – when the underlying premise is’ perk’ rather than priority, what we design and how we design it will fall short.

At this point in the school year, many international school leaders will be looking for those ‘external’ opportunities to boost learning for teachers during the long break between school years. . Here are some suggestions to ensure those experiences are beyond ‘perk’ thinking:

BEFORE approving attendance at an eternal PD session:
For each potential attendee:

  • What specific learning goals for students are we working to improve by sending this teacher to this PD session?
  • What do supervision and evaluation data for the teacher indicate regarding skills to be addressed?
  • What is the teacher’s own analysis of skills he/she needs to improve?
    About the session being considered:
  • Is the PD session directly aligned to the desired learning results our school is attempting to achieve?
  • Are the learning objectives primarily skills that a teacher would use in the classroom?
  • Is there evidence that participants will actually practice skills during the session?
  • Is the intended content commensurate with current research?
  • Are there any built-in follow-up strategies (e.g. a ‘next steps’ planning processes embedded in the session strategies?)
    AFTER the session:
  • How will we ensure that the teacher is actually applying what has been learned?
  • What measures will we use to determine if this PD made any difference?
  • And a big DON’T: DO NOT ask the teacher to ‘share what they learned’ BEFORE they have had the opportunity put it into practice in their own classroom.
    And a reminder that we at TIE and the PTC do offer some PD options for international teachers and leaders…

…all in the quest to move from PD as PERK to PD as PRIORITY.

I hated school, so I became a teacher…

Anyone? Anyone?

I know you’ve seen that video clip a million times, but it captures my education and makes you wonder how on earth many of us went into the business to start with.

How often do we talk about our educational experience as a history of how we learned? I’ve heard many times that we teach how we learned. That is scary because for me because it wasn’t pretty. I had a couple of good teachers, but it was mostly stand and deliver in such a soul crushing way I still don’t know how I decided to become one.

At our school, we have a new faculty retreat and one of my favorite exercises with the new staff is to have them draw a history of their education and talk about it with their peers. It’s amazing what comes out of it. Not only do I learn about the type of people they are but it tells so much about how they interact with their profession and actually teach others. I wish we had time to do such exercises in the interview process. British systems, Canadian, Czech, Australian, Swiss. It’s amazing how disparate their educational experiences were and how it affects their interaction with our audience. It’s truly an experiment.

The noblest in our profession got into it because we are maybe passionate about a subject matter that for some reason we didn’t pursue as a career, or maybe we really like igniting that spark of learning, the energy of youth and the world of possibility. It’s all good stuff. I actually liked my critical thinking classes in history which is how I went after a degree in politics and pursued my passion to get others involved in the same. It led to my strong belief that young people can and should make a difference in the communities around them and thus a pursuit of service learning before it really had a name. I guess that part of school was okay.

It’s worth it to sit down and write your education history. Share it with others and discuss. How did you get where you are? Did you hate school? Was there a passion that you didn’t pursue or maybe something that you hope to ignite in others? Is there a passion that still drives you? I have to say, the dialogue that is happening now around learning has actually recharged my batteries and my passion around what I do. I still kind of hate school. But wow, do I love learning.