The Elusive Professional Development Conference

So I’m heading out to Las Vegas tomorrow morning to both present and participate in a Solution Tree PLC Institute.  Joining together for three days with a bunch of great minds who are interested in seeing collaboration in schools work is going to be nothing short of remarkable. 

What is sure to make it even more remarkable is the fact that I can’t remember the last professional development conference that I went to!  Those kinds of events are few and far between for teachers nowadays. 

Making matters even more interesting is the fact that I certainly wouldn’t be going to this session if Solution Tree weren’t paying my way!  There’s absolutely no  chance that my school could have scraped together the travel dollars and registration costs for a conference like this. 

I think what aggravates me, though, is the fact that even local professional development/teacher leadership opportunities are few and far between for us classroom types.  Instead of sending teachers to district sessions, it is far more common to send media specialists, assistant principals or instructional support teachers.

Now I get it:  Those people don’t have any classrooms to cover, which means there are no substitute teachers to hire when they’re called in to sessions downtown—and no substitute teachers means no $$$ spent out of building budgets.

Because of the nature of their positions, media specialists, assistant principals and instructional support teachers also tend to work with broad groups of faculty members on a regular basis—which means that what they learn at district sessions is likely to easily spread across a building.

But it’s pretty discouraging, to be honest.  There are SO few opportunities for leadership and development to begin with that when we start to exclusively send the professionals who are working beyond the classroom, it makes me wonder why the heck I should stay in the classroom! 

Does this make any sense to you?

I think the suggestion that I’d make to school leaders is instead of always sending your assistant principals, media specialists and instructional resource teachers to participate in district opportunities, have those people start to cover a few classes so that your teachers have a few opportunities to get away and get involved, too. 

Not only will that result in happier teachers—especially the talented, motivated ones that you’re likely to ask to represent your building—but it will result in professionals beyond the classroom who keep their “teaching touch” because they’re actually working with classes of kids on regular basis!

2 comments

  1. Cristine Clarke

    Ok so here’s the idea. Use distance learning resources to cover the classroom. Technically legally an adult has to be in the room to keep order but you can set up a video conference with a highly qualified instructor and a parent can cover the room. Video set ups are coming down in cost. You can set up a room now for $400 if you have a laptop and a projector.

  2. Dan Callahan

    I hate to sounds all spammy, but this is exactly the reason why we in Philly started up edcamp Philly, and probably why a whole bunch of people seemed to like it and have now started working on their own edcamps in other parts of the country. We had 100 great educators mostly from the greater Philadelphia area show up and actually take the time to share what we know with each other.
    http://edcampphilly.org
    http://edcamp.wikispaces.com