the PD Challenge

I had the amazing chance to have lunch with my good friend Jessica Cuthbertson today. She is attending the Denver Writing Project’s Advanced Institute this week while I am teaching our Young Writers Camp. Over lunch we talked about professional development in this day and age.

I thought about this a couple of weeks ago while I was at the GAFE conference in Breckenridge. While I learned a ton and had a really great time, my beef is the same as it is with any professional development that is not with the National Writing Project. Sit and get PD doesn’t work. I never remember what I’m being given. It is boring to me. It doesn’t allow me to engage in professional conversations. In short, I struggle to keep what I am getting at these types of PD sessions.

Teachers are like students. We crave interaction. We crave time to send our ideas into the air to see what’s caught. We crave to bounce ideas to see what sticks.

This is why I believe it is important to have a few basic elements in every PD session I am a part of giving:

  • a chance for people to think about how they might already use the idea I am about to present.
  • an opportunity to learn something new or a new lens to look at something they might already know.
  • a chance to talk to other teachers about how they view this new thing, and perhaps most importantly,
  • an opportunity to practice with the new ideas presented, a chance to put it to practice.

This last part is perhaps the most important, the time to practice and to play. Playing with ideas is what we want our students to do, so why don’t we do this with our teachers.