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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Where IS the Real PD?

I often find myself frustrated with the dearth of access I have to people who really - I mean REALLY - know how to teach.

I feel like I've heard, for the past eight years, suggestions on repeat. Included in that broken record of sayings are:

- You should call home for tough students
- Sentence stems work well with ELLs
- Think about a different seating chart
- You need to have consequences
- Kids will respect you if you respect them
- Shake kids hands at the door

It's not that there's anything wrong with some of this advice. But it's geared toward new teachers. After you've been teaching for more than a few years, you want something more - both from your administrator and from your PD facilitator/coach.

A lot of the advice and professional development I feel like teachers receive address serious problems with very superficial solutions - i.e. solutions that may take care of symptoms temporarily - that may or may not work. And I feel like becoming a better teacher is, in a lot of ways, about getting closer to the solving of root problems in the classroom.

But where are the experts with the understanding of the nuances of the classroom who can really help you push in more deeply on the craft that is teaching?

In my experience, they're few, far between, and often overwhelmed in coaching/facilitator roles that usually have them spending most of their time on paperwork than actually working with teachers or teams of teachers in the classroom.

We also live in an era of education when many of so-called teacher coaches and administrators have taught for less time than the teachers they're supposed to be mentoring/evaluating.

There are few things more frustrating than being taught about something by somebody who knows less about it than you do.

Education media like Education Week or the Accomplished Teacher SmartBrief (put out by the National Board people) do little in the way of remedying this problem. Typical articles are titled, "How to use iPhone photography in lessons," or "Why knowing students by name and need makes a difference."

Really?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a place out there - perhaps on the internet - where highly reflective and intelligent educators discussed teaching in a way that was useful for those of us who've been doing it longer than a few years?

Where do I go for that?

3 comments:

  1. I feel like I get some great professional development from the blogs I read. Maybe math is different than your subjects? I follow hundreds of math bloggers, though most aren't writing any more. I have never learned much of use from others about how to manage difficult student behaviors; it has been more that I reflect on what works and doesn't work for me. I think it's too personal for advice to be much use.

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    1. Hmmmm... I think you might be on to something with that last piece about advice on classroom management being too personal. Maybe that's why I always shut down after a few chapters into books on classroom management.

      On the other hand, I think good coaches can help you think through tough classroom management situations when they've been in your classroom for a decent amount of time.

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  2. I find twitter chats useful along with edcamps and teach meets. I think that Im also going to purchase Teach Like a Pirate.

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