Professional Development – some questions and thoughts

Part of my job, no. Most of my job has me thinking about Professional Development. Today it has me wondering about how much others think about it.

As a teacher, how much importance do you place on PD? Is it something you do because it is part of your yearly schedule or is it something you actively seek out and want a say in?


The Quebec Education act tells us that we need to maintain a high level of professionalism – what does that mean to you? And does it mean the same for all of us?

It also says that we are required to be involved in the training and mentoring of new teachers. How are we helped in that area? What does this look like?

My bias is that PD is our tether line. It is what can keep us connected to others and to our own growth as we navigate the cliff sides of the ever changing classroom context.

How would you describe it?

Here are some questions for you…

click on the image for source…and for a post on student questioning from Inquire Within.

What do you teach? Whether it be math, English, French, science, History, economics, computer science… are you allowing your students to use whatever tools they need to be successful?

Are you allowing your students to record themselves (or you) with their phones or tablets?

Are you allowing your students to use their phones or tablets to look things up in class?

Are you asking your students to write all of their work by hand?

Are you questioning your students and expecting them to conduct their own inquiry?

Are you providing your students with all of the answers that they need to memorize to pass a test?

Whether your answer is yes or no to those questions… follow it up with


and here is the biggie…

Are you questioning yourself and your teaching practice on a regular basis?


Guidance through the shift

Watch this video and ask yourself: Do I know this teacher? Am I this teacher?

And then ask: How can I guide or be guided through the shift towards improved student-learning?

In the video I say that the answer is simple – just shift a la ‘just do it’ mentality but in reality the shift is not as simple as all that. If it were, I’d like to think we would all naturally make shifts as they are needed.

No teacher wants their students to fail, to be bored, to drift away. So something is keeping us doing things that are not working for most of the people in our care. We tend to point towards outside factors – students getting younger (in Adult Ed in Quebec we are getting more and more students between 16 and 24 ever since they (re)started a new streaming type of programming in the high schools), too much technology, larger class sizes, too much administrivia, lack of instructional material, multi-level classes… – over which we have little to no control and get angry about it. I love how Sheryl writes: What makes you most angry about education? Guess what? That isn’t the problem. in Break Down, Rebuild, Start Fresh. She advocates for focusing on those things over which we do have control and sharing our successes with others.

We. We have control over the climate in our classrooms.

We can choose to remain angry or complacent and teach the way we have always been teaching and then becoming even more angry or complacent as it continues to not work for the majority of our students and for us.

We can choose to make a shift and then to seek out the guidance we may need to help us in that choice.

We can choose happiness and success over anger and complacency. Really. We can.

Have you started this shift in your own practice? How?

Have you guided someone through a shift? How?

Brussel sprout ice cream cone…

Brussels Sprouts ice cream cone

…or chocolate covered broccoli.

Chocolate Covered Broccoli


However you want to call it, it’s disguising something with something else to try to make it more appealing. We might try it once, even twice, but pretty soon, once we’ve licked off the chocolate we’ll recognize the core of the thing for what it is**. Basically we should “Make the vegetables themselves taste good, and you won’t have to bribe kids with chocolate.

This is my concern with ‘new’ ways of teaching –> We get excited about them, we try to convert what we already do to them – we try to flip our classrooms, gamify our teaching/learning, differentiate our curriculum, teach to different learning styles – but all we really end up doing is stuffing a brussel sprout into an ice cream cone and complaining when they still don’t learn any better than they did before.

So how do we make the vegetables taste good? I say – instead of trying to teach teachers how to change how they teach (and then quickly jump to another way to do the same thing the following year…) , let’s focus on working with teachers on developing their relationships with each other and their students. Let’s focus on helping teachers identify what works in their classrooms, what doesn’t and to ask and answer the questions – why do I teach this or that in this or that way? Is it working? If it is – let me share it, if it isn’t – let me stop.

We speak about not losing the student for the subject – about keeping the student at the centre of learning – but do we not do the same thing with teachers? Sometimes I swear we are so focused on Professional Development Subjects that we forget about the true subject of professional development – the professional.

**my apologies if I offend the poor cruciferous veggie. We happen to eat a lot of it here (don’t ask us how we prove it…I have a 2-yr old who has developed a certain fascination with, well, with the expulsion of certain gases as a result of having eaten broccoli and brussel sprouts … enough said.) but it makes a good metaphor, it does.

Remembering the human (in teachers, too)

You teach a resistant teacher the same way you teach a resistant and disinterested and disengaged student. By engaging them, by challenging them, by making sure they have fun, and giving them ownership of their own learning will bring back even a hardened student to the class.

Eric Pollack wrote this, as a comment to an article on coaching teachers by Elena Aguilar in Education Week.

This is something I truly believe. Even so, it can be easy at times to be frustrated with what seem to be ‘resistant’ teachers.

I fight for the rights of so-called resistant students yet am frustrated with so-called resistant teachers. There is a misalignment there. I must realign.

I must seek to understand before being understood.

I must remember the human, always.