It seems like I’ve read a lot this week, on Twitter and on various blogs, about the need to improve professional development. Most of the things I read, mainly from this post from the Educational Technology Guy, strongly feel that professional development should be teacher centered. Sounds obvious, but so many trainings are not. Teacher centered doesn’t just mean for teachers, but by teachers. Teachers should at least decide what they’ll be working on during the training if not running the training themselves.
Sounds easy enough. Right? It has to be done correctly and with an appropriate amount of forethought. If an administrator asks a teacher to do a workshop the day before it’s scheduled, it’s probably not going to be a very useful workshop because, although a teacher is running it, it didn’t come from the teacher. I think that’s the problem. Teachers are busy and they’re not going to just volunteer to do a workshop or even part of a workshop most of the time. I completely understand that. I was one of those teachers. I’d be at my desk, have an inkling of an idea, but didn’t know where to find the resources or the time to find them in order to bring the idea to life. Now, however, I feel like I can do those things. What changed? I rediscovered and really got into RSS feeds.
I think most teachers would recognize the word RSS, but don’t really know what it is or how use it. When I finally rediscovered RSS and specifically Google Reader, and then the Pulse news reader for my phone, it fundamentally changed my ideas of being “up-to-date.” I didn’t have to subscribe to magazines and read scholarly articles (although that doesn’t hurt). I found some topics I was interested in, found some blogs and subscribed to them. Everything was delivered to me and was waiting for me when I had the time. By widely reading things that I was genuinely interested in, I developed a passion for those topics and knowledge about the topics that I wanted to share. And that last piece, wanting to share, is the first step in transitioning from being a busy teacher to a teacher who doesn’t mind taking time to plan something because he’s passionate about it.
Maybe I’m being overly optimistic or even naïve, but I feel that if even a third of the teachers in a school get hooked on RSS as I have, within a few months at least a few teachers will approach the principal with an idea for a presentation, training, or a workshop. Then they may make a habit of it. Then they may help create a professional learning community at their school to further investigate some topic. Perhaps that learning community will lead more trainings and slowly transform the professional development culture of the school. In the best of circumstances it may lead to truly teacher driven professional development in a school. I think in order to have teacher driven trainings, you need to have driven teachers. And reading RSS feeds is certainly helping me become a more driven teacher.
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