Professional Development is both common and needed in many professions, and it is particularly important in the teaching profession. It can take a variety of implementations ranging from really valuable to a waste of time. Making excellent use of professional development and the time it takes to do it are indispensable. Follow through is significant — a one time workshop or seminar, however high-quality, does not often make its way into practical application. The idea of Professional Learning Communities reinforces professional development and offers an opportunity for teachers to share and communicate. I think that in a well-done PLC, teachers will listen, participate in the conversation, and as a result, benefit.
Teaching is so complex. Every person learns in a unique way. In order to be a good teacher, not only do you have to accommodate all of those learning styles, but also, one must have content knowledge, flexibility, be a good listener and a good learner. A good teacher must have the facility to observe and process what is happening with the learners in the classroom and take any needed action. Putting on a “show” or demonstration that is not a living, active and changing moment does not always teach. That display will offer only information for those who can suck it up, understand that delivery, and then spit it back out.
The purpose of Professional Development is to improve instruction, not just one teacher at a time, but as a teaching community. Thus the reason for Professional Learning Communities–the opportunity to share, communicate and discuss not just success, but failure too. This process becomes the beginning of reflection. The better one gets at it, the more one can use this self-observation to be successful. It is a great idea to daily ask what worked and what didn’t. Add this information as a comment area to your lesson plan and let it affect what you do tomorrow. Instructional coaches can give you ideas, show connections, and make suggestions — all good! BUT, you need to know what you are doing on a daily basis with a serious reality check. When you have the opportunity for a coach or colleague to observe and give feedback, take it! Teachers need to have flexibility and be adaptable to change. There needs to be sensitivity to what may be unknown or need a response from students.
Technology can help in professional development. Webinars, online chats, twitter chats and the like are all an opportunity for teachers to communicate and collaborate with others. All the things advocated for students, collaboration, communication and creativity also help to make better teaching and encourage student-centered learning. Administrators and coaches are instructional leaders and must model for teachers. Everyone can learn from how students learn. Think about how you would want to learn to do something or what is effective for you and use it for students.
There is no substitute for content knowledge and experience with that content to teach. Given that, additional feedback through how that knowledge is delivered is another matter. There are as many styles as people and I think that is okay. Learning from what other teachers do and how they do it is a good thing. It gives one new ideas. Different teachers have different ways of saying things and some may connect with certain students better than others. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t give up until you are successful.
Reflection and self-assessment should be a part of every professional development experience and a part of every teacher’s daily work. Learning should never end and of course, part of the goal of public education should be to create students who are life long learners. Learning is an active process whether you are the student or the teacher. Everyone learns. The more one teaches, the more one learns.
As teachers and administrators, we should model the behavior we intend for our students. Ask teachers what they need and support them. A good coach will guide the teacher to discover within himself what to do better and work with teachers to be reflective and use self-assessment as a starting point for growth. This practice will be the best practice and raise teacher satisfaction and morale and improve instruction. People are better at things when they are happy with what they are doing and feel like what they do matters.