If PD is an event in your school, you are doing it wrong

Does the title of this blog post sound familiar? Josh Allen famously stated the following:

“If technology is an event in your school, you are doing it wrong.”

Josh Allen

Allen’s point is that one-off technology events are insufficient. Instead, technology should be embedded in our practice. As he says, there is value in technology events to spark interest and engagement, but technology integration has minimal impact if it is solely through events with no follow-up or anything in between. I agree with Allen and have written about this before, but this post isn’t about technology.

I believe that the same principle applies to professional development. Yes, teachers look forward to PD events and (hopefully) benefit from them. No doubt, it is a responsibility of school leaders to ensure that all teachers are learning and growing. School-organised PD can take many forms, including fantastic and inspiring events. However, the responsibility of professional development ultimately lies with the teachers themselves. PD is available from all directions, in many forms, and often for free. Certainly, it is not limited to one-off events. Learning should take place between events and on an ongoing basis.

Many teachers complain that their schools haven’t organised anything of interest, or that they prioritise other teachers. School leaders have budgets, action plans and a whole staff to think about. There’s a bigger picture. It’s unfortunate that teachers often feel this way (and leaders should aim to avoid this), but teachers should be making it happen for themselves anyway. If a teacher stops growing, they have nobody else to blame. There’s no excuse.

Dave Burgess (author of Teach Like a PIRATE) wrote an inspiring blog post on this topic. In a fitting analogy, he compared teachers to a ski resort that had unfortunately experienced no recent snow. The resort’s choice was clear: they made their own.

“Far too many people waste their time complaining about the negativity and poor attitude in their building, the lack of forward progress, irrelevant or non-existent professional development, and all of the myriad of things, people, and circumstances holding them back. Don’t wait for the weather to change… change the weather.”

Dave Burgess, Make Your Own Snow

Now more than ever, PD is readily available. It’s often free/very cheap and you don’t even have to get out of bed for it! Here are some of my favourite ways to keep learning:

  • Professional reading (click here for recommendations)
  • Learning with my PLN using professional social media accounts
  • Online courses
  • Virtual conferences (check out the upcoming #HiveSummit and Teach With Tech conferences – both absolutely free!)
  • Blogs (learning through my own and others)
  • Podcasts
  • YouTube channels
  • TeachMeets for informal networking and short presentations (click here to see #21CLTeachMeet dates)
  • #PubPD

These are just a few suggestions. In his blog post, Burgess made a longer list. It’s definitely worth a look for more ideas. Click here.

Also now more than ever, professional development is needed. Society (and, by extension, education) is changing at a faster pace than ever. It’s both exciting and daunting. Once again, I’d like to share this important quote:

“In a world that is constantly moving forward, if you are standing still, you are falling behind.”

George Couros

This acts as a reminder that none of us can afford to be complacent. Even the most talented teachers are at risk of falling behind if they fail to grow and adapt. Thankfully, PD is ready and waiting on demand. We just need to be proactive and motivated enough to take advantage.

Events are important and appreciated, but also insufficient. Teachers must take charge of their own professional development and ensure that learning, risk-taking and reflection are all embedded in their everyday practice. In the wise words of Dave Burgess, make your own damn snow!


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6 comments

  1. I think both you and Josh are right, Adam. PD is actually a joint responsibility and some of the best resources for learning are one’s own colleagues and, perhaps, administrators if they have had real classroom experience and remain interested in children and learning and not just data collection. When teachers have opportunities to discuss what they are doing with each other, their highs and lows, successes and opportunities for growth, a great sense of joint ownership can be formed and a synergy which wouldn’t occur without it. A team effort is the best way.
    A great post to get people thinking, talking, and working collaboratively.

    Like

    1. Hi Norah,

      Thanks for your input. I don’t disagree with you or Josh. A joint responsibility is the best way to think about it because, indeed, all parties share the responsibility. I just worry that some teachers seem to blame others for their lack of growth. This may well be a failure on the part of their administrators, but teachers need to take ownership as well.

      Best,

      Adam

      Like

  2. The only thing I’d push back on is, shouldn’t administrators make PD valuable and not one-offs? Many teachers are under-paid and over-stressed. I don’t disagree that they do have a plethora of options out there, and should take advantage of them, but I don’t want to let admin off the hook to continue boring or flash in the pan PD. Too many teachers won’t take advantage of those opportunities because they don’t think it’s valuable and have families they need to be a part of. What they think is valuable is what administrators give time and money to during contract time.

    Like

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts. Administrators still have this responsibility to offer valuable PD and ensure that it is followed up with impact. I totally agree that they should not be off the hook. Good point! PD appears to be evolving from the “spray and pray”, one-size-fits-all events. This is promising. I’m reminded of this blog post: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pd/

      But I maintain that the responsibility ultimately lies with the teachers. If administrators are providing relevant and ongoing opportunities for learning and growing, fantastic! But my point is that teachers can proactively seek these opportunities even when administrators fail to do this. One way or another, teachers should be learning.

      Best,

      Adam

      Like

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