As kids, we loved Teacher Institute Day. We got to stay home while our teachers went to work. We never knew what they did, and we didn’t really care. All that mattered was the day at home playing with friends, watching TV, and not being at school.
As teachers, we’ve seen what is on the other side of the curtain. We know that some institute sessions are better than others. We know that sometimes we will turn around and try something new the next day, and other times, we will forget what we just learned.
This evening, I participated in a Twitter chat about engagement, and I realized something. For all the work we do to engage students, we forget everything we know when working with teachers.
That’s not fair, there are plenty of great presenters that I’ve had the pleasure to work with, but often times, (myself included) we resort back to “me talk, you listen.” It’s easy, it’s safe, and sometimes it works.
As we talked about engagement, the world ‘choice’ kept coming up over and over again. I don’t think I could find a teacher who didn’t think that giving students some choice is a good thing. Whether it’s choice in how material is presented, or how learning is shared, we all value giving students choice.
But when it comes to professional development, we have few choices. We will get trained in this system, or we will go to a meeting about that curriculum. Often the only choice is which session will you attend first.
This year, I’ve taken some choice back. Not in institute days, but in my own professional development. By following some FANTASTIC people on Twitter, I’ve learned about things that I would never get at an institute day. By listening to podcasts like EduAllStars and Talks with Teachers, I’ve been introduced to some remarkable shifts in education.
When we take PD into our own hands, it’s amazing what we can get out of it. I’ve learned about Genius Hour and Maker Spaces. I’ve been introduced to resources and sites that I’ve never seen before. I’ve had the ability to chat with people who do amazing things for education without being in the classroom, like Jenny Buccos does for Projectexplorer.org.
If the only professional development you are getting is through your institute days, it’s time to rethink things. Follow some educators on Twitter, participate in a chat. Download a podcast. Just like our students, when you have choice in your professional development, your engagement and buy-in will increase exponentially.