I’m 29 years old, which admittedly is not many years on the planet. I’ve been working in education for 13 years now in various capacities. These include after school programs, tutoring, university teacher assistant, both math and writing labs on college campuses, AVID mentoring, private and public classroom teaching of English, economics, and government, and leadership positions for both international school trips of over 100 people and head of a humanities department of 13 people for the past two years covering grades six through 12 in a secondary school of a thousand students.
So my entire professional history involves education. And yet, what is not interesting to me any longer is learning about professional development that aims to increase efficiency or effectiveness in schooling children as is. Most learning simply isn’t worth the time and energy we put into it from my viewpoint.
Do I care to get better at literacy teaching when most of that literacy will be used to ingest content the students don’t or shouldn’t care much about? No.
Do I care about learning more ICT so that students can access the same material in new ways? Not really.
Does it seem to make sense to me that we spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on PD for teachers so that they can turn around and decide what, when, and how students will learn anyway? Nope.
The real issue is a lack of seriously intellectually inclined people in the world of education.
I’ve seen many “purposes of education”, but just about all of them involve career employment and citizenship in some capacity. So why do teachers do everything in their power to avoid talking about the future of jobs and citizenship?
If a PD training doesn’t inform me more accurately on what makes the nation or society I live in better or what the future of jobs looks like for students, I’m not interested. I know of very few PD’s that address either of those topics directly and education across the board is pretty terrible at thinking about them. Try to think of the last time you attended a meeting or PD that directly and openly discussed either of those two topics. I’ll wait.
That’s why I much prefer to read books, watch videos, and follow blogs that discuss economics, politics, psychology, and ethics. Those are the central topics of our lived experiences, so those are what I want to know more about and be able to share with students. Because they’re entirely social spheres, they’re also intrinsically interesting to us as social animals and provide all the motivation a person needs to work hard on inventing the next medical technology or manufacturing process that improves millions of lives.
Maybe students would be more literate if they learned, discussed, and debated about life in school on a daily basis. They’d almost certainly be more interested in learning and wanting to learn is a short step away from wanting to read more. So maybe skip the literacy PD and just figure out what's important in our lives. I'm confident that interested students will learn far more than any specific strategy or tactic the next workshop offers.