Showing posts with label professional development. Show all posts
Showing posts with label professional development. Show all posts

Friday, January 30, 2009

Getting fired up about the start of term.

Yes, another PD session today . The time left for planning was great and I am feeling ready to start the new term. The work done at the end of last term has made this easier than expected thus far. Our TIC provided input on the course and directed worthwhile changes. Programmes and daily plans are written for the three year 10 streams my yr 11 1B/C classes, 3A/B MAT, 3A/B MAS and yr 12 Modelling with Mathematics. Yay!

We're all pretty keen to get started and even the most cynical of us are looking forward to what the year can bring without last year's threats of industrial action. Let's get on with the job of teaching.

The PD material was of dubious standard with a part time presenter condensing a week long course into 1.5 hrs to a group of 60 teachers from different learning areas. The topic of course was literacy, which meant another rehash of primary strategies, collaborative learning and.. you guessed it.. graphical organisers.

We were asked 'how we knew that students were engaged?' with a range of answers from 'if a student is looking at you (culturally inappropriate in many cases)' to 'actively answering questions (disposition/culturally inappropriate)'. No answer was given by the presenter (I think her answer was discredited before she had a chance to supply it). Doodling notes on the page was deemed a valid method of note taking. We again were informed that the 2 squillion genre's were a necessary part of learning and teaching.. a focus on breadth of learning over depth again. The change in emphasis from version 1 to version 2 of First Steps is a shame as the original First steps had focus and is still a valuable teaching tool as it gave students a foundation to learn other genres. Despite being a Maths teacher I own copies of both the first and second editions of First Steps.

The presenter put us in a lineup and instructed us to stand from engaged to not engaged. She then asked us 'Did we feel engaged by PD opportunities? and to position ourselves accordingly in the lineup. I stayed where I was which was on the disengaged side. As I had been critical of earlier answers (and was sitting under the presenters nose) she asked me why I felt disengaged from PD sessions. I said that I rarely encountered worthwhile PD (to which I embarassingly received a clap from staff). Yep.. that's me.. survival skills of a bunny on a freeway.

More seriously I would add to that PD's are rarely well prepared as they inadequately take into account prior learning (no more bloody graphical organisers!), show little awareness of the requirements of staff (we had staff from every learning area), have no follow up or action points (this may be more of a management issue), take too long to tell too little and generally are just not good value for money. She rightly guessed I was a maths teacher as I was critically evaluating the value of PD sessions.

On just the value for money point.. 1.5hrs x 60 people at an average of $70,000 per year conservatively cost the school $3,000 in lost wages. That's a projector installed for each of the teachers in Maths which would benefit 150 students every year or a new set of text books for a classroom. It has an opportunity cost of our students having a more cohesive programme that could have been developed. I would be interested to know how many graphic organisers are actually used in classes or how many teachers use the text supplied.

I don't accept that we should be grateful for any PD given and accept mediocre presentations. If we waste 90 man hours of training time, it is a criminal waste. We cannot stay professionals and not continue to learn our craft. Without good PD opportunities we cannot grow at our optimum rate.

I took away one point from the PD, an interesting example on the use of questions to promote discussion on a subject. It was ok but explicit teaching would have imparted the same knowledge (drink water if in the desert) in 1 minute rather than through a round of discussion. I can see how it could be useful and is another tool to use in the kit bag. It also explains why a number of my alternate lessons work..

The materials presented by the principal were great in that they allowed teachers a chance to vent concerns in a healthy environment. In another session it was interesting to hear that 360° reviews were contemplated and rejected (where teachers review performance of management and vice-versa). It's difficult to see the benefit of inexperienced management staff reviewing inexperienced staff. It's all a bit silly really when experienced staff exist to perform the teaching review within the school.

It was raised that we needed to communicate better with like schools and embrace some of their successful strategies. This is a great idea - unfortunately one rarely possible. It would be good to see long term strategies that lead to teachers on loan to adjacent schools for terms, semesters or for the year, further developing our abilities and bringing back learning to our schools.

It was nice to hear that many teachers thought our mathematics summer school was a worthwhile first attempt. It will be interesting to hear the anonymized results when they are handed to admin by students on the first day back. These trailblazing year 11 3A MAS and MAT students are the bleeding edge of our new maths students and for them to succeed would be great for them and the school.

Only time will tell.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Professional Development

Now, I'm all for getting better at my craft. Let's get serious though, first day back professional development ("PD") is crap. I've yet to go to a good one.

It starts with a lecture from the principal outlining the latest decrease in conditions. Thereafter comes the mutual backslapping over a programme that was successful (affecting two kids in the school - and the kids on investigation thought the programme was crap). Then we talk about a document outlining what we are thinking about doing two years after the programme instigator intends to leave (crap.. crap.. crap..).

Then we might get some rehash of a teaching strategy that has worked in some far flung school in southern Africa with very little to do with our cohort and is therefore crap. Followed by a lunch (the highlight of the day) which you have to be careful not to eat enough to stem your hunger or face the wrath of the eating police tut-tutting your greediness (I shan't make the obvious joke here).

If you manage to get through all that and not die of terminal boredom you might glean a good minute and a half of usable content. Whilst doing this we sit there thinking (and some of us are smart enough to actually be doing) about planning for next year's courses of study.

oh crap!