Day 8 (of 189) value of pro-d days
Had my sister-in-law ask me an equestion:
I’m having a disagreement with my co-workers, who think professional days are a joke. They are saying that the teachers don’t have to go to whatever the development day is each time and some don’t ever go. I said that wasn’t true and that I thought they had to do most and could maybe miss one or two a year. What’s the rule?
Now, the first reminder is that (in BC) teachers gave up “days” at the end of the school year in order to spread days for professional development throughout the year to encourage ongoing learning. So, “getting rid of Pro-D days” would just mean summer vacation starts a week earlier. And we would be having a tougher time aligning tomes for teachers to get together and learn with/from each other; our “October day” is tremendous as it allows specialty associations to hold events that professionals from around (and beyond) can attend. There is a date in February that neighbouring districts sometimes try to align so they can hold “bigger events”, but is not the same date across the province. The other days are also dispersed as wanted by each district.
Is every Pro-D fully attended? While I wish otherwise, there are some events that are not taken as seriously because of other looming concerns. The dates provided are important opportunities for collaborative learning, though there are some that don’t find value in it…and a few that actively find ways to disengage on these days. There is also an option for “self directed” pro-d where individuals can start or continue some learning that is personally relevant (not skiing or shopping) and the union (bctf) monitors that – principals are to know that an individual is doing self-directed pro-d and where they are, but then we trust to professional practice.
And of course, there are also events that educators take part in above and beyond the scheduled pro-d days. For example, next Friday is our districts pro-d day and our school is doing some work on our school goal on outdoor learning. After that I am catching a ferry so I can go to another district in order to (finally!) meet one of my twitter favourites and a Saturday workshop on Passionate Learners (and get a selfie – first world goals!)
Are pro-d days throughout the year valuable? Absolutely. Do they create some child care issues? Sure – as do winter spring and summer vacations. But school is not a daycare service and ongoing learning does remain important – as my sister-in-law also said, you wouldn’t want your child taught by a teacher who graduated university 20 years ago and hasn’t looked at anything about learning/education since – so much has changed around what we know about the brain; how it learns, how it responds to trauma (yep, even infants can experience long term impacts) how there are differences so there is no one best way (even my beloved PBL works for most, but not 100% but.. PBL is flexible as even a test can be a project 😜) and how rote memorization often doesn’t create long lasting impressions and new ideas about how educators use programs/tools/etc as our system continues to better personaliZe learning.
After all, schools are different today, and we need to keep talking about how and why they are different. More anxiety? Yep. More disruptive students? Sure. Why? Easy: we (as a school and society) are no longer as ‘ready’ to give up on people. I like to point out that my grade 8 class was (approx) 120 students (of around 135 grade 7s) and about 60 of us walked across the stage. Those numbers are no longer acceptable -not that people were happy about them back in the day, but education is doing a lot of different ideations and thinking around how to keep students engaged in their learning journeys and a lot of this comes via those pro-d days.
So the rule? Find professional learning that is meaningful to you. If a scheduled conference doesn’t seem to be a good fit, explore what else is available. But also take chances – sometimes going to an unrelated conference sparks the brain and makes new connections and generates original ideas. UDL (universal design for learning) came from the school of architecture. And some of the “general” conference/seminars/talks on assessment and behaviours and neurology can link to every classroom because they deal with people – and education is a “people business”. And while even I have done self-directed days, I know that they have always led me to collaborative endeavours (sometimes crossing all sorts of borders thanks to the twitter machine). Professional Development is essential for educators and education – the days aren’t just valuable, they are invaluable!