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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ask a Teacher - What's with All the Professional Development?

If you're like me (a parent who is not a teacher), you see "professional development" (I can use scare quotes because see first part of the sentence) days as a nuisance and sometimes you wonder if they are really necessary. Teacher Emilie Blanton from Teaching Ain't for Heroes says they are and better than that, she tells us why.

What's with all the professional development?

With the abundance of snow days in my district this year, it has been brought up by multiple parents across social media that professional development days should be used as make up snow days. A common thread is most of these assertions is that teachers don't need all this time without students.

But do they? Disregarding the weather issues going on in my state, the professional development days do serve a vital purpose in the education of your children. Professional development can be used in a variety of ways. It can be a time to take continuing education type courses in all types of subjects, meet with fellow teachers to analyze current student learning, and even catch up on planning and grading for classes we're teaching.

The majority of a teacher's work week is spent in direct contact with students, teaching and conferencing with their classes. Most teachers get a planning period, but that time isn't generally enough to get copies, plan lessons, and grade all the student work. It's true that we can always take work home, but most of us are parents as well and have a limited amount of time to spend with our own children as it is. That time also doesn't allow us time to grow and learn from fellow educators the way professional development courses can.

The majority of professional development can be taken care of during the summer, but the best teachers are those who continue to grow, learn, and change throughout the year, not just during the summer.

Professional development opportunities should not take precedence over student learning. Using too many substitute days to attend courses isn't good for students, especially if those days all happen directly before end of course testing. It can be frustrating and inconvenient when professional development days create havoc in a parents' life by making them have to take a day off work. Ultimately, the professional development days help students in the long run.


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