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.”
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)
- YouTube channels
- TeachMeets for informal networking and short presentations (click here to see #21CLTeachMeet dates)
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.”
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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