Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crazy PD lovers

I was just reading this adorable blog called mybilingualclassroom and the author said something interesting: "I'm crazy. I actually like PD." It was kind of funny that I read this today because I was recently re-reading Harry Wong's book The First Days of School and he talks about how great teachers like meetings and don't complain about or get annoyed by them.

I happen to work in a district where we have meetings all the time. We do an incredible amount of meeting and PD-ing and training and clustering and PLC-ing and focus-grouping and session-ing and whatnot. The sheer number of hours we spend in meetings would probably blow my mind if I actually counted.

Anyway, I'm writing about it because I just read that blog and the book, and also I just spent 6 days (yep, our workshop week was a day longer this year) attending meetings and trainings and related things. And I can say with confidence that teachers do not actually hate meetings, and we do not hate being professionally developed. (WHAT?! SHOCKING!! You don't believe me? Well I'll explain to you why I'm right in a minute.)

Think about it: teaching is a job where you get paid to talk all day. Also, most teachers are women, and women (stereotypically, anyway) really like talking, especially to each other. So if you think about it, meetings are times when people who like talking sit around and talk to each other about things. And yet...they make so many teachers feel like this:

Why is that, you ask? Well, I'll tell you.

What bothers us isn't the existence of the meeting. What bothers us isn't the new learning. What bothers us is inefficiency. I imagine this is true in any industry and/or company, but it's especially true for teachers (I say that because I am one). Sometimes meetings are longer than they need to be for you to learn the information or finish the conversation. Sometimes the information isn't new or isn't differentiated enough to be meaningful to you. Sometimes you spend a lot of time doing independent reading of an article or a teacher guide or a book excerpt and not enough time discussing and applying and planning. Sometimes it's summer and you really just wish you were at the beach. And sometimes (or most of the time), you're thinking about how much needs to be done in your classroom, and you can hear the mental clock tick-tick-ticking as your shape-cutting and pencil-sharpening, and crayon-picking-up and book-choosing and lesson-planning and flipchart-creating time float away. And when those things happen, you get tired. And cranky. And hungry. And distracted. And hot (especially if the building doesn't have air conditioning).

We don't hate meetings. We don't hate PD. We like accomplishing things, and we love to learn. (I mean, we're educators, aren't we? Learning is what we do.) So when you have a really good session or a really helpful training (like one I went to last Friday) or a really meaningful discussion or a great opportunity to apply new information, or just a really productive conversation that ends when it's done (and not at an arbitrary scheduled time), it's like a breath of fresh air. And you leave better for it.

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