“Staff meetings were something I dreaded as a teacher” (Couros, 2015 p. 181). This is something I agree with completely when I think about the things I have to do in my profession. I hate sitting around and talking about test scores and working conditions at our school. Rarely do I feel like I accomplished anything when leaving those meetings. Professional development it the same way for me. It is usually one or two days of lecture and then we are sent off to our schools to apply the concepts we are taught. Couros (2015) does not hide that he thinks this method of professional development is not the way to go. He says the best way to learn is through collaboration and observing other teachers teach. We learn best by applying the things we want to apply in our classrooms.
A couple weeks ago I was at an AP teachers workshop. I had to go in order to continue to teach the AP class at my high school. According to the College Board teachers must go and listen to another teacher tell us how they teach their class. Once we have done that we are deemed “worthy” to teach an AP class. The problem is I got nothing out of the week long session other than some free books and online resources. The educator who was leading the session I attended teaches at one of the best and richest schools in Kentucky. Most of her suggestions for teaching were not possible at my school because we do not have the funding and the resources to implement her suggestions. Because of this I wasted a week when I could have been planning and gearing up for the upcoming school year.
With that being said, my principal does a wonderful job of letting me experiment with new programs and technologies. He allows all of us to explore new things to see if they work. He does not try to micromanage his teachers. Now if something is not working, he will tell us that we need to reevaluate what we are doing in our class, but for the most part we are allowed to find what works for us. Teachers send emails back and forth, observe other classrooms and informally share ideas in the teacher’s lounge or in the hallway before and after school. My school is small which creates a family like atmosphere where we are comfortable talking with any teacher in any environment.
The way we could improve the collaboration is making it more organized. Many schools have started hiring people who are technology experts. This is something I would like to have in my school. Even though will have a Master’s degree shortly there are still times when I wish there was someone I could call to bounce ideas off of and get help. This person could also be a great advocate for using new technologies in the classroom. For example my district will not let me use Twitter to send updates to my students. Even though it could be an efficient and innovative way to share information and answer questions, the school is worried about liability issues. If there was someone to ease the concerns of the administrators we could be more forward-thinking with the technology use in our school.
In the end, I like the ability to share ideas with other educators in an informal way. Short conversations in passing or a 15 minute observation can help me learn way more than a week long professional development session. I hope schools start to move toward these communities and away from the antiquated staff meeting.
Couros, G. (2015). The innovator’s mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture