As a school climate lead teacher, I often find myself wearing two hats. I receive both formal ongoing professional development (PD) opportunities alongside school board personnel and at board functions and provide the PD to my colleagues at staff meetings and on P.A. Days. Playing dress up with both hats simultaneously has in my opinion, placed me at the perfect vantage point.
When I am wearing my ‘’learner’’ hat, I have found myself metamorphosing from the once passive listener at formal functions like board conferences into an engaged learner-participant using a backchannel such as Twitter, which is 21st century ‘’note passing’’ for teachers. I can take pictures, write down direct quotes, share my thoughts and feelings and “pass’’ my note in a mere matter of seconds! If only this approach was used when I was in elementary school, I wouldn’t have been Ms. Chatty Cathy of the 8th grade! What could have turned into me not learning, growing or even networking, has suddenly become a place where I connect to anyone in my school board (regardless of their position) and pore over the material being presented, reflect on my teaching practice and refine my skill-set.
This brings me into my next point: Teachers won’t learn when you tell them to learn, they learn when they want and are ready to! A designated day for when all teachers board wide, shall or must learn, seems the tired days of our past. Almost any teacher you talk to, would prefer being an active voice in the process of deciding when and how they best learn (just like our students)! To add to this, I would argue that most teachers would choose an informal means of developing their pedagogy by way of independent book studies, release time to work with grade partner(s), blogging and reading blogs, taking part in regular Twitter chats, taking an additional qualification course, meeting with a mentor, taking part in a 4Cs model and so on and so forth.
Also, from what we know of our students and selves, it’s best to study in short segments rather than long drawn out mornings or days full of all the ‘’latest’’ teaching methodology. So, as someone who provides PD, I’m trying to take what I know from my observations as a learner and apply it to when I’m wearing my “lead teacher cap’’. I try to use games and activities that are engaging, memorable, quick and applicable for the classroom. I follow up the games and activities with a brief reflection and share further information through Google Docs. This allows teachers to decide if they like or need the information presented and when and where they will be open to receiving it. By doing this, I am intentionally respecting my colleagues’ time. I am also mindful of who I’m sharing information with. I’m not a university professor teaching a masters level course. As much as I believe in research guiding my teachers practice, I’m not about to print out full psychological studies to share with my colleagues at staff meetings and asking them to read such studies aloud paragraph by paragraph. I’m realistic about the amount of content and the information that I provide.
If there is anything that I take away from wearing my decorative hats, it is the imperative notion of building both choice and trust into PD opportunities. Choice, being given back to the teacher-learners to decide what, when and where learning should happen and trust, in each teacher-learner having the desire to improve their teaching practice and the means for that matter to select the best fit, for themselves.