In a recent blog post for Education Week, educator Nancy Flanagan reflected on a recent encounter she had with a young teacher after a panel discussion. The teacher described her loneliness at her school, which is focused on raising test scores and has an atmosphere of fear and bitterness among the teaching staff subsumed by the incredibly high stakes of the profession. As a second-year teacher, she had no one to turn to for mentorship and felt disillusioned with the whole system, but had found the evening panel discussion (of which Flanagan was a key participant) uplifting and rejuvenating. She told Flanagan, “You don’t know how much I needed this!”
Thinking back on this interchange, Flanagan developed six ideas on changing the conception teachers have about professional growth.
1. Ask teachers what they need. What do they want to learn? What are their interests? Teachers should be asked to help develop their own professional learning objectives, with principals acting as facilitators.
2. Keep working on the right descriptors. We need to develop clearer terminology for the different types of professional growth opportunities for teachers. Professional development, professional learning communities, professional conversation…
3. Get rid of the PD verb “present.” Teachers should not be “presented” new instructional strategies, or listen to “presentations” on new techniques. “The only productive thing listening to a pre-packaged instructional presentation will yield is a rough idea of how the material might be adapted to fit your particular class.” Teachers need to share, discuss, and have the space to use their professional judgment.
4. Invest in teachers as valuable social capital. There is value in professional networking, but are large conferences the best way to grow as a teacher? Flanagan thinks the common format of professional development should be reconsidered, and activities viewed as “regenerative,” rather than remedial, and thus part of a long-term investment in teacher capacity.
5. Build more personal learning networking opportunities. We should be encouraging all teachers to interact with educational digital networking communities, and provide a time for them to do so during the school day. “It’s the most cost-effective professional learning available, and controlled by the teacher-learner.”
6. Demand that professional organizations give us what we want. “We need to stop thinking of professional development as something done to teachers.” In other words, we need to force unions and disciplinary organizations to focus on real professional learning goals, to provide viable alternatives to district-mandated PD.
To read the full post, please visit http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2011/11/you_dont_know_how_much_i_needed_this_six_ideas_about_professional_growth_for_teachers.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TeacherInAStrangeLand+%28Teacher+in+a+Strange+Land%29