Teaching the Teacher

or  A Reflection on Professional Development

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Recently we had a curriculum day with a focus on Numeracy professional development for the staff. In combination with many of the voluntary online webinars I’ve been attending recently, it prompted me to reflect on my opinion of professional development for teachers.

I’ve always believed that teachers are lifelong learners. I wouldn’t be in the profession if I thought otherwise. The students I teach in my classroom now do not necessarily learn in the same way I learnt when I was their age, and they certainly don’t learn in the same way that my parents did. As such, teaching has adapted and changed, and while the fundamental principals are still very similar, our approach to teaching and learning is in a constant state of change based on the needs of our students.

The same should be said for teacher learning, although I don’t necessarily know if it is.

All throughout my teacher training (yes, all four years of it!), I had one philosophy when it came to my uni lectures/seminars and any extra professional development I participated in: it’s all a learning experience.

I don’t believe in “bad” PD, as many people around me have sometimes called their experiences. I approach everything as a new learning experience, and even if I come out of something with the simple realisation that I’m not going to use that strategy or I disagreed with a philosophy or implementation approach… I’ve still learnt something. Sometimes I come out greatly inspired and raring to try a new approach, and that’s fantastic. But I just can’t bring myself to call something “bad.”

Now, that’s not to say that sometimes I attend PDs where the presenters are sometimes difficult to listen to. Not every one IS easy to listen to, or comfortable talking in front of groups, or easily able to present information. I try to look beyond that, because they’re trying to convey a message or point and that’s why I’m sitting in the room – I’m not there to judge the person.

As teachers we should all be able to critically reflect on ideas and concepts of teaching – and that includes our own professional judgement. It is just as powerful to say “I disagree with that” or “After listening to that approach, I don’t think that’s suitable for my situation” as it is to say, “I am absolutely going to run with that brilliant idea!”

Which brings me to my recent discovery of online webinars. Now I know they’ve been around for a while, but they’re new to me and I think they’re brilliant.

My experiences started with RSCON3 this year, and has led me to SimpleK12’s webinar series as well. I’ve never shied away from opting in to PD in my free time, so for me this is just an inspiring option to having to search high and low for PD that is appealing and relevant to me and my teaching.

And yes, there have been webinars I’ve experienced that I’ve walked away from going “That was interesting, but not really suited to me.” I don’t count those as wasted experiences.

But, just like my students, I’m happy to be a sponge – ready to absorb all sorts of knowledge! After all, you never know where it might take you!

Do you have a philosophy on professional development/learning?

Have you had an overly positive and/or negative professional development experience?

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2 thoughts on “Teaching the Teacher

  1. Hello! I have a very similar posture in PD sessions and it was lovely to read your thoughtful description.

    I have to admit that sometimes I have a very strong reaction to approaches that go against my core beliefs about how children learn and grow. In those times I try to, as you say, remember that I’m not here to judge the person, and look deeper within myself to try to understand why I am having that reaction. Sometimes a good dose of what I don’t like can refocus me towards finding what it is that I offer my students, and fuel me to roll up my sleeves and get back to it.

    I often wonder about how people who think and feel completely differently might work productively together (without the brims of their blackest hats obscuring their vision).

    Thanks very much for sharing thoughts and your writing.
    ecks

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    • Hello, Ms ecks!

      Thank you for leaving such a lovely comment.

      I agree whole-heartedly with what you’ve commented on – what I don’t like helps me to refocus on what I can do to support my students. I think that if we believe that we’ve wasted our time, then we have – and I hate that. Everything is a learning experience, the good and the ‘bad’ and both should inform our future teachers (or endeavours for out of school experiences).

      A friend of mine (another teacher) started team-teaching this year with a co-worked who is works quite a bit differently to herself, and I know that they had to work hard at getting their dynamic right in order to work productively together. Similarly, I know that I have a very different philosophy towards personal learning than the other members of my teaching team – and while that can on occasion be a hard thing to overcome, I think it’s really important to learn to balance and to be able to arrive a ‘mid-point’ where everyone feels successful and valuable. (I don’t think I’m perfect at that either, but it’s something I’m working on!)

      Again, thank you for your comment!
      Stefanie

      Like

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