Ask a roomful of teachers if they’ve ever sat through professional development sessions that were poorly done and probably every hand in the room will shoot up toward the ceiling. Then ask them *WHY* — I’d venture the top three answers are: 1) One-size-fits ALL training 2) The presenter didn’t understand classrooms/teaching, and/or 3) The sessions were not differentiated (The topic wasn’t applicable to me or not at my level)
When I’m put into these situations, I try to make the best of it, figuring I can always glean one new nugget of information. However, I often fantasize about how many projects I could have graded or how my teaching partner and I could have planned an amazing learning unit instead.
My experiences of the past week will make this type of PD even more frustrating, as I experienced THE BEST professional development last week.
The Kenan Fellows professional development week at NCCAT in Cullowhee is the standard by which all professional development sessions should be created.
CHOICE – The Kenan Fellows were given a list of concurrent PD sessions. Each session had a title encompassing the topic, followed by a brief description. We had several offerings per session and were encouraged to move from one to another if we realized our first choice was not a good fit. (The “Two Feet” Rule) Luckily, I did not have to employ this, as all of the sessions worked for my needs.
Caption: Teachers are willing to try anything they think might engage their students. Note: We are also very competitive
TAUGHT BY TEACHERS – By bringing in former Kenan Fellow recipients who are still in the classroom, we were treated to professional development that was practical and focused. There was so much energy as we eagerly dived into the role of a student or asked questions on how we could apply techniques to our own classroom.
DIFFERENTIATION: The sessions were listed in the program, with notations as to what we could expect. Since there were so many sessions, we were able to match the offering with our ability level and/or subject taught. In addition, presenters always had time incorporated into the session for questions and sharing. In this way, we were able to garner information from other educators and get a quick peek into their classrooms.
My favorite sessions were the ones dealing with Project-Based Learning (PBL). These have the most impact on the work I’m doing at Ply Gem industries. My goal is to create practical hands-on lesson plans (as well as learning units) that science and English teachers can implement into their own classrooms. Since I’ll be traveling as a Fulbright Distinguished teacher this fall, I am hoping to implement them in the U.K., as well.
The highlight of the week? Being treated like a professional.