I write this post after sitting through three days of professional development.  The county that I work for asked that we send a team, thus we did. Prior to attending, I was looking forward to learning new methods of helping our students learn and grow. Unfortunately, I learned unintentional lessons from those presenting.  Here are a few pointers for myself and other professional development presenters.

1. You don’t need to prove your value, we trust you. You’ve already proven your value, which is why I’m taking time from my school and attending your seminar. You don’t need to give stories of your teaching career and how great you were. I’m attending your workshop, because I believe you can offer me tools, information, or strategies that will help me reach my students more effectively.

2. Use the best resources that you have. There were approximately 75 educators in the room, perfect for networking and sharing ideas.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.   Instructional leaders need to put the materials into the hands of those who will be using it. Then, let the professionals work together to plan implementation. This will give teachers comfort with using the new tools while providing support from the experts.

3. Practice what we preach. We ask our teachers to get away from standing at the board and lecturing. Yet, when we attend PD, that is typically what happens.  How are our teachers supposed to get away from lecturing, if we never expose them to anything else?  Use the format of the training as training itself. We can teach others about any number of topics in a format that will give them exposure to a new way of teaching.

4. Read your audience. It is appalling to look around and see a room full of disconnected, disengaged, distracted audience members.  I’m not disappointed by the audience’s behavior, but rather by the fact that the presenter continues as if everyone were paying attention.  As part of my teacher walk-through observations, I look at what percent of the students are engaged.  If a huge portion of the class is not engaged, I have to ask myself if the teacher is effectively engaging the students.

5. Don’t let them leave empty handed.  How many times have you gone to a workshop, and thought “I can’t wait to try that”?  Weeks and months go by, and you still haven’t put anything you learned into practice. At that point you’ve forgotten what it was that you wanted to try. Give the learners time to create a lesson, or plan a unit that incorporates one thing from your workshop.  Make them use their time to do something productive.  That will increase the odds that it will get used.  If you are really on top of it, you will have the participants record what they plan on using and their contact info.  In a few weeks you can send them an email asking them how it went in their classroom.

6. Respect the clock.  NEVER hold a group late.  If you are not finished, invite those that wish to continue the conversation to stay longer, but never require everyone to stay past a set time.  If anything, reward hard work with an early release.  The people will leave on a positive note, and remember your PD in a much better light.

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