New Slide: Acronym Burnout and Boys Who Cry Wolf

My buddy Paul Cancellieri and I were talking about the negative reactions that teachers have towards professional development the other day when he came up with a pretty remarkable metaphor that I think truly applies to adult learning in schools.

Here it is:

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

Do Paul’s words resonate with you?  Are the teachers in your building tuning out every new change effort, no matter how important they really are?  If so, whose fault is that?  Should principals step off the gas a bit, focusing on a small handful of changes that are implemented carefully over time or should teachers be more responsible about embracing changes introduced from the district level?

More importantly, how can YOU—working from your position in the schoolhouse—get momentum to swing back in a positive direction so that professional development becomes meaningful in YOUR building?

7 comments

  1. David B. Cohen

    Bill, this idea definitely resonates with me. It’s understandable in veterans, and unfortunate that the attitude gets adopted by newer teachers. Once again, I find myself informed by “Drive” by Daniel Pink. If you want to motivate teachers to do PD/PLCs or just about anything else, you need autonomy, purpose, and mastery. We need the opportunity to choose the initiatives or projects that meet our needs as we see them, ensuring that the work is purposeful. (Not suggesting that anything goes – teachers should have to collaborate on that selection, with each other and administrators). Then, once the selection is made, autonomy in the process moving forward, and enough time and other resources (though time is usually the main issue) to approach or achieve mastery.

  2. Bo Adams

    Paul,
    Great point about differentiating. With purposeful pre-, during, and post-assessment of PD, differentiation becomes more possible and probable, I think. As a principal teacher, I fail at this repeatedly, but I am committed to getting better and learning. Listening to the full faculty and making informed adjustments is key for me. More recently, more faculty meetings and PD are looking like mini-conferences for us. This helps faculty select threads and topics that are most applicable to them. However, we have to assess what types of sessions to offer, and we must allow during-day time to talk, practice, integrate, etc. Often we pack the day too full. Need more space to think about what we are learning and doing.
    Bo

  3. Clix

    I wish our district would back off a bit. Every 2-3 years it’s throw out the old fad, and drown in the new one. We’re given lots of instruction (during our planning) but little TIME to work on it – we’re supposed to implement it during the year as we go even though we’ve still got 2-3 more PD sessions before WE’RE fully instructed in it… *sigh*

  4. Paul C

    Bill,
    Thanks for the kind words and shout-out. It’s flattering to see my words broadcast in such an effective way.
    Bo,
    I completely agree that my admins don’t look at the actual needs of their staff before planning and implementing PD. Worse yet, where’s the differentiation?

  5. Bo Adams

    Bill,
    Perhaps the disconnect here is, at least partly, due to poor assessment practices. We admin ask teachers to work on balanced, formative assessment, but are we admin doing so as a good model? Are we using teacher input prior to PD to help decide the paths and agendas? Are we formatively assessing the PD and providing opportunities for participants to weigh in about what worked, what did not, what could have been better? I imagine that if PD and admin included more assessment of our practices, then we admin and we teachers would be more WE than US and THEY.
    Bo