Professional development is an essential and crucial part of any educator's career. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn, countless ways to grow, and many opportunities to reflect and revise. Professional development is the way to stay on the cutting edge and to give our students what they deserve - the very best of who we are and who we can be.
I've been very fortunate to have had numerous professional development opportunities in my career so far. The following is just a short list of some. This would be an extremely long post and one that would never get published if I listed every PD session that has made an impact in my career.
- The Learning & Brain Conference in San Francisco. I've had the pleasure of attended several years with topics that focused on EdTech integration and social-emotional learning.
- my administrative credential and masters program
- the Elements of Instruction workshop
- Silicon Valley Math Initiative's summer coaching institute and SVMI's on-going PD series during the school year
- Schoology's NEXT conferences
- the T+L conference
- National Equity Project
- and of course countless Twitter chats
Professional development is truly the shot in the arm that educators need to get inspiration, get connected, be in a space to dream and try new things, and reflect and revise current practices.
Four Types of Teachers
Speedboats are the teachers that are also referred to as your "early adopters." They are the ones that hear an idea and run with it. Often the best thing to do is to set them free because their interest, drive, passion will propel them beyond anything you could imagine. Their journey includes creativity, curiosity, and often becomes the basis for further peer-to-peer PD opportunities.
Rowboats are the teachers that may need a bit of support to get started. They are the ones who are interested in the topic but may need the objectives, a structure of their implementation of the PD topic, an example of a final product to work towards as their goal, and/or support to set them on their course. Going with the analogy, this could be simply a push of their rowboat in the right direction.
Rafts are those that require more support. These teachers may be more hesitant to get started, need more support and structure for full implementation, require consistent and effective monitoring, and benefit from follow-up and check-ins. Sometimes, "rafts" need the presence of a coach or peer mentor to guide their journey.
Rocks. Rocks are your resisters. These are the teachers that just sit at professional development workshops and sessions and oppose any direction of initiatives, new or modified. Phrases like, "Why do we need to change?" and "What I'm already doing is good enough." are sometimes heard from teachers in this category. Granted, if teachers sign up for workshops, there is an inherent interest in the topic; teachers who are "rocks" are those that attend required or mandated PD. No matter how much support or guidance you offer, these "rocks" will just sit and stay. The "glass half full" perspective on teachers in this category is that eventually when the pressure of the "water" is great enough they will move. Rocks will eventually move when everyone has moved onto in the river and they start feeling left behind and/or the pressure from their administration or the parents propels them to move.
Speedboats, rowboats, rafts, and rocks. Teachers move in and out, and between these four categories at various points in their careers. As mentioned, when PD sessions and workshops are required, sometimes teachers are rocks. When topics don't interest us, we may not be the "speedboats" we sometimes are. We have been in each of these four categories. The factors that affect where you are in these categories include mindset towards change, prior experience with PD, prior experience with the professional developer, and your professional learning network. What category are you in?
No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn, countless ways to grow, and many opportunities to reflect and revise. Professional development is the way to stay on the cutting edge and to give our students what they deserve - the very best of who we are and who we can be.
One more thing:
I've shared this analogy in a few recent Twitter chats I've participated in and an educator in my professional learning network, Roland Aichele, offered this additional perspective on rocks. Eventually the pressure will smooth rocks out so they row alongside with their colleagues, perhaps behind their colleagues, but still there's movement.