Professional Development: making a difference

My last post described my disappointment in my colleagues.  The poor attitude of some in attendance at Professional Development workshops had me doubting the professionalism in my profession.  On Friday, I attended a “cluster” workshop presented by Mark Davidson.  Three schools in our area (two primary schools and the high school) met to hear this guy tell us about the Essential Skills of Classroom Management (ESCM).  He was credible (with approximately 30 years of teaching experience in Prep to 12 and approximately 15 years of that time also spent developing this framework), entertaining (role playing student and teacher behaviour), honest and his presentation was informative.  While we sat and listened for more than an hour, we all felt like it was the most practical professional development we attended in a long time.

My teaching partner (one of them) and I spent most of the time laughing and nodding at his stories.  I could easily relate to every situation that was described.  Although we sat in very different sections of the hall, we both mentally ‘checked off’ each of the strategies as something that we already do when managing our classroom.  For us it was nice to know that we were on track.  For many it was nice to hear from an experienced and successful teacher about classroom management.  If you are a teacher you don’t have to be told that classroom management is one of the biggest things that teachers need to get right.  I would wager that most parents know this too.  Parents know that their child is happiest and most successful in class when their teacher has clear and consistent expectations.

I found it interesting that, on the whole, both primary and secondary teachers (and support staff) were engaged throughout the entire workshop.  All but one teacher who I spoke to after the session had positive things to say about the experience.  The one person who expressed distaste attributed it to a single political statement that the presenter made within the first ten minutes of the session.  He did not “listen” to anything that was said after it.  However, he was respectful enough to sit silently and “take notes” for the remainder of the session.


All of this made me wonder… what is it that ensure engagement during a PD session?

  • importance of the issue?
  • relevance to the teachers personal context?
  • entertainment factor?
  • real ‘life’ application of the material?
  • audience participation?
  • the promise of a good feed at the end?


I think the answer might be in the right combination of all the above suggestions.   Getting butts in seats is not at question here, I don’t wonder how to get butts in seats.  The question is, how do we engage when the student is forced to attend?  Don’t we (as teachers) already have a “captive” audience?  Our students have little choice about their attendance.  They have to be there, but they don’t have to learn.  Adults can (or at least should) be at least quiet and respectful when they are forced to attend something.  However, it is well known, that teachers are the worst audiences.  It is almost as if they are destined to repeat the same irritating behaviours of their students.  It truly astounds me.  Just as the opposite behaviour astounded me on Friday.


I know this post has meandered a bit, but I will get back to the point.  The theory and practice of ESCM is sound and worth further investigation of teachers who want to be good classroom managers.  Professional Development can be practical, well received and have a positive impact on teaching practice.  If you want to make a difference when providing professional development, you need to learn from the best.  So, even if the content is not useful, watching how the presenter presents will be an educational experience in itself.


The Literacy Coach


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