Pauline Zdonek, a Illionois teacher and math coach, wrote a blog post on Edutopia about the importance of effective professional development. I won’t go into too much detail, but I can’t agree with the point of her post anymore: Teachers, like students, benefit from development geared towards their individualized needs more than non-applicable, repetitive information. We should want each teacher to leave a session learning something useful, rather than waste their time, as Pauline recounts in her post. The problem, she says, is that administrators apply a one size fits all technique, which ends up being so vague, no one can benefit it.
While it is hard to provide granular, one-on-one professional development for every teacher, any attempt to “meet the teacher where she is at” is a safe bet on making an actual improvement to her skill set. Pauline recounts the all too often situation is a teacher not being asked what she would like to gain from a training session but given a requirement to attend sessions, regardless if she walks away with meaningful, useful guidance or not.
Why do we expect teachers to be amazing when we don’t understand or care for how they’re being taught? Professional development needs to be a more transparent component of education as a whole. Perhaps professional development organizers could meet with a wide range of teachers and discuss what could be covered over a series of future professional development trainings. Or, if meeting is not possible, have students fill out a detailed survey that leaves plenty of room for open-ended answers, which would be sufficient to engage the teacher about how they can be accommodated. With that said, genuine professional development for teachers that takes their needs into consideration would just let teachers know that, just as students’ individual needs matter, theirs do too…because they are…students, after all.
I know reformers don’t like accommodating teachers, but I think PD accommodation is worth the investment, no?