The Chronicles of a Professional Development Day

What emotions do the words “Professional Development Day” conjure up in your mind? Fear, love, joy, hatred, anger, dread? The day is meant to be one of enlightenment and wonder, but often times we walk away feeling like it could’ve been used more productively elsewhere.  What does a great PD day look like? Does it exist? What is the best PD day you can remember? What elements did it have? How should my attitude be towards the approaching day?  If you’ve ever sat through a long afternoon of Professional Development, you know exactly what I’m talking about, so how can we make the most of the time we are to spend growing as a teacher? Even if you’re stuck in an afternoon of long, boring lectures, there are some things you can do to make sure that you get the most out of your situation.

 

Chronicle of a Typical (or Not So Typical) PDD:

12:30 p.m.

You spent the morning supposedly working in your room (protected work time, right?). Next thing you know, you look at the clock and you are to be across town at the middle school building in ten minutes. Lunch? Didn’t happen or it included some animal crackers you had in your top right drawer. When you enter the building, the seminar has already begun and you look like the town fool walking in late…of course, everyone stares at you.  Right away, people are moving into groups that have been selected by way of which playing card you drew…aces over here, hearts over here, clubs over there. Darn it…you don’t have a card. Luckily your friend happened to grab one for you. Already you feel like a failure. The speaker is off to a great start! He’s energetic, engaging and people are moving about the room. “This might not be too bad,” you say to yourself surprisingly.

1:00 p.m.

You’re not sure exactly what happened, everything seemed to be going well until you realized that this is the same old stuff you’ve heard for years…back in college even!  You realize it, you’re stuck! No. Way. Out. Every time you break into a new group, you become more snarky and begin to invent ways to not participate; either that or you decide to over-answer the question, just to make sure you sound engaged, but you’re not.

1:30 p.m.

You turn your laptop away from the speaker and pretend to take notes, except you’re really working on your lesson plans or replying to a few e-mails. “I don’t have time for this,” you think to yourself.

2:00 p.m.

“Only one more hour to go,” you reply to a coworker from across the table. “No, we go until 3:45,” he replies. Drat!

2:30 p.m.

Wait, a bit of information that I hadn’t thought of before. Ok, something I can take away from this! Well, that and the whole putting people into groups by way of playing cards…brilliant!  Two items I can take to my classroom!

3:00 p.m.

90% of the group has officially “checked out.”

3:35 p.m.

“And in conclusion.” I heard it! “In conclusion!”

3:40 p.m.

Over. Freedom.

Perhaps this exact chronicle of time has not happened to you, but I would hesitate to guess that I’m coming fairly close for many of you. I can think of, over the years, perhaps a handful of PDD’s that were truly remarkable, enlightening and engaging. The rest of the time, not so much. Perhaps that is why Professional Development Day is not one that I look forward to with much enthusiasm. So, how can we get the most out of a PD day, even when it’s not going as well as you’d hoped? Here are some tips that can help:

1. Realize that it’s not their fault that you’ve heard the speaker’s message before. Perhaps someone in the group needed that exact message. It’s not all about you, it’s about us…and a great review is always a good idea once in awhile.

2. Understand that the speaker is doing the best that they can. How many times have you given a lesson in your classroom that was not as well received as you would’ve hoped?

3. Be gracious by paying attention. We wouldn’t allow our students to begin working on other tasks while we are giving a lesson, so why do we do that to our guest speakers? Put the cell phones away, stop checking your e-mail and try to stay engaged. It’s the respectful thing to do.

4. Side conversations are hard to resist, but try. You wouldn’t let your students talk during your lecture, so don’t do that to the speaker. Treat the speaker as you would want to be treated.

5. This too shall pass. Know that your administration does the best that they can to obtain speakers and lessons for your professional growth. Not every PDD is a home-run, but sometimes they are. Appreciate the good days, and do your best to get through the not-so-good days.

6. Take away something. Tell yourself that if you can take away one or two or three things that you can implement into your classroom, then it’s been a good day.

7. Remember, some positives things did happen. Perhaps…

  • You spent time growing and engaging your brain (even if it was just a little).
  • You spent time with your peers.
  • You met knew teachers from other buildings that you had not met before.
  • You sat with your best friend.

 

When it comes to professional development, how the day will turn out can be a mystery, but if you go into it with a good attitude, then it does not have to be a day that you dread.  Making the most out of the situation is the best approach to have. Happy Professional Development Day!

 

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About the Author:

I teach English in Kansas.

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