Salvaging Your Professional Development Experience

PD will only waste your time if you let itWe’ve all been there. The professional development session that makes you wish you spent more time perfecting the art of sleeping with your eyes open. The quantity of information available regarding best practice in professional development is astounding. Regardless of the influx devoted to transforming the PD experience, we still find ourselves in sessions that seem to miss the mark.

There are a great deal of educators, teachers and administrators alike, who still approach professional development sessions as something they “just need to get through.” Some of this is the fault of presenter predecessors who perhaps did not offer engaging sessions for their participants. But educators across the nation have embraced a new standard for professional learning, and they are left working against the odds when participants check out before they check in.

So, what part of the professional development experience is the responsibility of the participant? We expect students to take ownership over their learning. What ownership do we take over our professional development opportunities?

PD will only waste your time if you let it.

Tips for INSIDE a professional development session.

Be a good listener. Attending a mandated session is inevitable. Keep yourself engaged. Even if the presenter isn’t holding up their end of the deal, implement strategies to ensure you find the new learning. (Perhaps you can direct the presenter to the following blog posts after the session: 5 Non-Negotiables of Professional Development, Revisiting 5 Non-Negotiables of Professional Development via @rosscoops31). Some strategies to keep you in the learning mode:

  • Set a silent timer. When the timer goes off, write a one sentence summary of the presentation.
  • Visual note taking. This is my go-to strategy, but I didn’t know it was a “thing” until I read this Visual Note Taking post from @coolcatteacher
  • Live tweet the session.

Ask the right questions. This doesn’t necessarily mean hound the presenter, but if something is unclear you owe it to yourself to ask for clarification.

Find your relevance. Pick up a new presentation technique. Think of a fellow educator with whom you can share the session content. Think of at least one thing to change tomorrow based on the information you gathered today.

Be positive. Great things will happen much faster if Negative Nancy stays home.

Speak now or forever hold your PD peace.

Tips for OUTSIDE a professional development session.

Look for choice and use your voice. Whenever possible, find professional development sessions that speak to your interests. This may mean making a choice from district offered sessions or attending an EdCamp, participating in a Twitter chat, Voxer book study, etc.

Advocate. Schedule a time to discuss with your administrator professional development experiences that work best for you. If you do not speak on your behalf, who will?

Can’t quite put your finger on it? Maybe you are not exactly sure what is missing, but you know something is askew. Take to social media. A quick scan of a Twitter feed full of educators or a Zite curation focused on education could easily open your eyes to something you would like to learn more about.

I regularly tell students, “The only person you can control is yourself.” One day, all professional development sessions will be engaging and differentiated. Until then, what are we going to do about it?

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