I have been doing some reflecting as of late, focusing on the technology we use and why do or do not use them. As I reflected I also thought about the professional development we conduct here at school. I think many of the initiatives we take up are sometimes all or nothing when it comes to training the staff. For example, when the district decided to start using an ePortfolio for teacher evaluations, it wasn’t a choice, it was mandated, which is fine because there are certainly various procedures that must be mandated. However, there are certainly things that not all staff will use in their classrooms. For example, one thing we have trained staff on in the past is how to create a Web page, but there are only a handful of teachers that have their own Web page.
I have been thinking about an upcoming training I am going to be conducting with the high school staff, which discusses how to use Facebook in the classroom. From my experiences and conversations with others, the biggest waste of time and frustration with professional development always surrounds the notion that what we learn during professional development needs to be implemented. I feel it is impossible to take everything we learn in professional development to our classes. We simply don’t have the time. However this doesn’t mean that critical thinking and meaningful interactions stop during professional development just because I’m not going to use this strategy or this technology. This is what can make all the difference for the people, however big or small, who plan on trying something new, which is why I think it is important to at a minimum expose all staff to new ideas and experiences.
What really got me thinking about this was when we watched Randy Pausch in homeroom on Friday. He talked about the things that are important and the things that are due right away. He had a simple matrix for how we should approach tasks based on their importance and when they are due. When he said that we shouldn’t do the things that aren’t important, because they are just that, not important, I had a vision of how I should be living and working. Why do we spend so much of our valuable time doing things that don’t matter? In education I think a large part is due to the misconception that everyone has expectations to do so much with our students that we don’t have time. It isn’t that we don’t have the time, rather we aren’t managing our time very well.
So what is my point? My point is that when you come to your next professional development meetings, don’t come in with the preconceived notion that I have another thing I have to do in my class. Rather come into the session with an honest open mind and consider what is being presented. If it is something you like or agree with, then take the time to evaluate what you are doing in class and find a way to incorporate the new strategy or technology into your classroom. If it is something that looks like it is a little more worthwhile and important for your students, then stop doing the things that aren’t as important. Like Randy Pausch said, “Have you ever gotten in trouble for doing something that wasn’t important?”