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Thursday, February 14, 2013

PD: What's best for kids is what's best for teachers. Both are learners.


We've all seen this scenario. Educators 'sitting' in a traditional PD session at a school doing what they're 'told' to do. Heck, no one has asked them what they need, what they want to do or learn, or how they might want to go about achieving these things.  Teachers often don't know what they're meeting for in the first place. Why? No fault of anyone involved. The system is simply running as it always has. PD is being 'delivered' to teachers just like information is being delivered to kids. Ultimate goal of all this delivery of info is high test scores. (Not that there aren't other lofty, admirable goals, but ultimate goal always leads back to test scores.) This lack of learner control and choice leads to passive, unengaged learners, in both student and teacher.

Some of us have seen the other end of the teacher PD spectrum: Educators at #edcamps full of smiles, energy, and enthusiasm for education; on a Saturday no less; batteries recharged and ready to try out new things with their kids.  Could school/district level PD make teachers feel like this? YES!

We know what's best for kids: let them IN on their own education and learning. Give them control and choice;  rigor and relevance. Let them experience the JOY of real learning; learning that is social, dynamic, exciting, and freeing. They don't have this choice and freedom in the typical classroom thanks to focus on high test scores; the system itself locks us all in. 

What's best for kids is what's best for teachers. Both are learners. All learners need certain conditions to thrive. Teachers are the lead learners, though, and must be active and alive. Kids feed off of a teacher full of curiosity, engagement, and enthusiasm. Teacher learning and motivation, I believe in my heart of hearts, is of the utmost importance to school culture and to student learning and 'launching.' 

My district, in the summer of 2011, started NKCS Summer Academy. It is a week of PD courses designed and created by NKCS educators around topics of interest and relevance to them. Teachers leading and sharing with other teachers. You can sign up and take any classes you want. You are not required to take any of them. You can earn credit or money for leading and/or attending. The experience, of networking with fellow educators from my district in 2011, kicked me into a new and active learning direction. I took off in 2012 in technology and haven't looked back. I found Twitter and blogging and edcamps. I am a different educator than I was just under 2 short years ago. I am alive as an educator and I feel like a professional. I like it.

How do we change district and building level PD into active learning led by the learners? 
Should this be a high priority if we have kids' best interests in mind? 
How can we effectively use social media make it reality for both students and teachers? 

The shift has to be to the LEARNER instead of the INFORMATION. Will there be things the teachers must do or learn as building/district assignments? Yes. But who is in charge of setting up how all learning opportunities look and how they get accomplished is what counts. 

Once teachers start learning from each other in their own buildings and districts, teachers that thought they had no voice will get involved and start leading as well. It will snowball and you will see Shiny, Happy Teachers...and kids.

It's hard to shift control to the learner when the system is not set up that way.

Let's shift it anyway and shift hard.

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