Monday, March 30, 2015

Am I A PD Glutton?

This is a response to a post that Scott Bedley wrote. Go read it here. This won't make any sense without that context.

I love Scott. He's a great guy. Always makes me think. This post was no different.


So, to start: based on Scott's definition, I'm a PD glutton. I answered yes to a few of those questions. I think I agree with his basic premise: there are people who partake in a lot of PD opportunities in their geographic region and beyond.

The question is why though. Why are people spending so much of their time attending non-mandatory PD events? Are we gluttons? The Google monster tells me that a glutton is an excessive overeater. It makes gluttony sound reckless.

I want to push back on Scott's label of gluttony. I can only speak for myself, but I don't think that I'm excessive in my desires for good PD. If I look at my 2015, I'm not sure about gluttony. I've been to TEDxLangleyED, edcampSV, integratED Portland, the Silicon Valley CUE event (which I helped organize), and annual CUE. Some were amazing events. Others were merely good. All scratched an itch though.

I think that one of the biggest reasons that I spend my time and my money attending events like these is that my school and district PD doesn't work for me. (I'm not trying to throw my district or school under the bus here. I've been very open with them about what could be done to improve PD.) The PD I'm required to attend isn't developing me professionally - it's school work. It isn't helping me critically rethink what my classroom can and should be.

I choose to attend PD events to scratch that itch. That "I know my classroom can be a better place for all my students, I need to keep figuring out how to make that happen" feeling that I have. Does that make me a glutton? Or a teacher with an unfulfilled vision, but a desire to get better? (And the knowledge that I can get better.)

Like Scott, I've had some letdowns at PD opportunities. Sometimes, the focus on the tools of edtech and not on the learning that students should be doing is bothersome. Sometimes, the plethora of sit and get sessions - and the relative paucity of discussion-based or doing sessions - gets to me.

I know good PD when I see it. You can feel it. Like when I walked into Tracy Clarke's session at CUE 10 minutes late and the chairs were all pulled into a circle and it was LOUD. I knew I was in the right place. And we talked, and did, and learned together in her session.
Tracy's CUE15 session, photo by me

Those things CAN happen at traditional conferences. Conferences that might have a lot of sit and get. Conferences that might have a lot of tool-based sessions. (And I get that some people need tool-based sessions. I just don't generally love them.)

I think the onus is on us, the PD gluttons as Scott calls us, to make spaces for sessions that involve conversations. Sessions focused on making and doing, not listening to a sage on the stage. To create opportunities that we find valuable. And to expose folks just used to sit and get to something new. Something better.

We need to work to make PD better everywhere we go.

I recognize that my response to Scott's post had veered into the conversation of how we can make PD better - according to Scott, a sign of a PD glutton. However, Scott also wrote that when you're full, you're full. I'm not sure I'm full yet. I think there's more for my classroom. I think there's a better place for my kids to learn. I want to find that.

I'd argue I'm still hungry.

And, as Scott says, we may need to look elsewhere as well. I've moved away from books about education for pleasure reading. I'm reading about leadership. Change. Thinking. Areas that touch on education, but aren't explicitly about education. Bringing those outside ideas in is necessary too.



Or maybe we need to change the conversations about PD. Maybe we need to stop talking about it. Maybe we need to find a way to share the vision that we're working towards in our respective classrooms. Maybe we need to share the risks that we're taking. Maybe we need to start sharing the places we are looking for inspiration from. For new ideas. For new perspectives. For what's next for us and for our students.


I need to think more about this.

I hope more people join in the conversation. Let's keep this conversation going.

Who is writing the next blog post?