Professional development seems to be a word that strikes fear in the eyes of educators across the country. I know that the teams that I work with often feel that professional development sessions are boring and irrelevant. Instead, they worry about losing a day of time with students or getting to important work.
As a parent, I dread seeing the random professional development days spread out across the calendar because I have to scramble for coverage for my kids (since they invariably fall on days that I can’t take off). What’s more is that I seldom hear excitement coming from teachers about the upcoming experience. Afterwards, I don’t sense anything different about my child’s learning experience and wonder what the time was used for.
In a recent blog post, David Geurin raised a fascinating question about student learning:
Does Your Classroom Inform, Inspire, and Entertain?
It immediately left me wondering if our professional development sessions did the same thing?
Crossing the threshold and making sure that we do more and just inform our staff during professional development doesn’t seem to be that high. As Geurin notes in his post, edutainment, like TedTalks, have become increasingly popular. We want to learn and we don’t want to fall asleep while it happens. In other words, nobody wants to be Ben Stein’s character from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Beyond entertainment lies inspiration which is how knowledge is transformed into action. An inspired employee is infectious. They want you to share in their enthusiasm and join them in trying out whatever new skill has entered their toolbox. As a frequent presenter at training sessions, this is the spark that I want to see light up in the eyes of those in my care.
It’s not too late to begin thinking about your next round of professional development through this lens. Go beyond knowing what you are presenting about or training on. Figure out how to engage your audience so that they are fully present and engaged. Get them laughing (or feeling something other than numbness). Then, get them thinking about how this is going to help them and change how they work, even if it is just with one student.
I recently gave a presentation to a group of related service providers about early childhood development. I had a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time in which to relay the information. I’m reasonably sure that I left them feeling informed about the topic. I also made sure to pepper my comments with jokes and anecdotes to keep them engaged. And I hope, that by making a compelling case about the importance early childhood development and the need for intervention that I left them feeling inspired to go forth and support this vulnerable population.
So, yes, my professional development can rise to the challenge of informing, inspiring, and entertaining.