Here’s a confession, I’ve been responsible for some pretty horrible professional development (PD). When I think about the faculty meetings I ran when I was a new principal, I am embarrassed. Often, my faculty meetings were the Don Gately Show. I like to think it's a pretty good show (my wife’s not complaining). I tried to sprinkle in the occasional joke or amusing anecdote, but my approach was deeply flawed. Teachers had little choice in participating; they were required, by contract, to be there. If the topic was not meeting their needs, they had to wait until I was done to complain about me in the parking lot. I surely was never the smartest person in the room; the smartest people in the room didn't get a chance to share their expertise because I didn't create a structure for them to do so.
And, oh the PowerPoints, I ‘loved me some PowerPoints’. I relied on this magical Microsoft tool like a crutch. As an assistant principal, I was an early adopter so I remember a time when I could dazzle my faculty with animations and wiggly text. The principal would sometimes ask me, “Don, can you do that PowerPoint thing for the faculty meeting?” I’d beam with pride! But like the hack magician sawing the lady in half, it took a while for me to let go of that thrilling trick. There are teachers out there with handouts I foisted upon them at faculty meetings, three slides to a page (so they could take notes?!), 107 slides in all. If I am ever considered for appointment as education commissioner, some journalist will dig these handouts up and my career will come to a screeching halt.
Fortunately, due to a combination of factors, I've gotten better at faculty meetings. Through experience, research, learning from others, better principals and maybe just because I got sick of listening to MYSELF, my faculty meetings have become improved settings for learning, at least I hope so.
I’ve done some bad PD, but so have many of my colleagues, both in the administrative AND the teaching ranks! It's staff development like this that has created the need for EdCamp. Above I described a formula for “How NOT to contribute to teachers' learning.” EdCamp upends all of these approaches....