Most teachers I know are fiercely dedicated to their craft. They want to grow and improve—so PD days should be a win-win, right? Wrong. So often, PD days consist of juvenile icebreakers, meaningless buzzwords, and condescension toward hardworking grown-ups, most of whom have master’s degrees. Here are the things I really wish PD trainers would skip.
Childish ‘Warm-Up’ Games
Attention, PD trainer friends: Teachers literally wrote the book(s) on warm-up games. We know what you’re trying to do, and it’s annoying and juvenile. Since we’re all adults—simple introductions should do if the group needs to know each other’s names. Leave Pass the Ball and Get to Know You Bingo for the classrooms of primary students.
Instructions to Pay Attention
Here’s the thing with PD training: It often only serves a handful of teachers, yet we’re all jammed into an auditorium to listen. Moreover, the training usually reflects the school board’s teaching trend of the month, which we all know, as teachers, will most likely fizzle out before June. We’re professionals. If what you’re serving interests us and can engage us as an audience because it is meaningful pedagogical practice we’ll listen, take notes, and ask questions. If it doesn’t apply to us, we’ll most likely grade papers on our computers or catch up on emails. That’s our choice. Your job is to present.
Nothing turns off teachers more than compelling them to participate in PD. Whether it’s being put on the spot to answer a question, being called up to the front to take part in an example or tableau, or being forced into conversations with strangers. If we are curious about something, we’ll ask a question. And if we have a comment, we’ll share it. We’ll ask if we want to learn something by doing. Let us make the adult decision to participate based on our interest and engagement—forcing it will only turn us off.
Illogical, Meaningless, or Useless Information
If you’re going to get and keep the attention of 1000 teachers in an auditorium, you better have something good to say and share. A convincing new teaching strategy, usable resources or ideas—maybe even links to lesson plans. What we don’t want to hear is something we already know: “Literacy is important—kids should read more”; “Try mental math”; “Use (insert new tech device) to engage kids.” If we’ve heard it before, we don’t want to hear it again. Moreover, we should be walking away with something—whether it’s something abstract (a new idea, perspective, or pedagogical concept) or physical (links to resources, physical resources, ready-to-use lesson plans).
A Longer-Than-Advertised Program
PD can be draining, mentally and physically. I once went to a PD session where the speaker rattled on through half our lunch break, then nearly an extra 30 minutes past the end of day. Nothing turns people off like talking through their break or lunch. Moreover, if the school board has given a particular time period to speak, then respect those guidelines. Most teachers will sit past stated times out of respect for the presenter, but as for attention and engagement, you’ve lost them the minute you went over time.
We’d love to hear—what do you wish PD trainers did (or didn’t) do? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, read our open letter: Dear School Administrator, Please Treat Us Like the Grown-Ups That We Are.