What happens to educators when they leave the classroom and move up the ranks of school administration? Is there some sort of “amnesia ray” that is beamed into their minds to erase all that they have learned about pedagogy? Why do we teach educators using methods that would be woefully inadequate for students?
I asked myself these rhetorical questions this week as I was “trained” in the use of our district’s new professional development component. Blaming the high cost of hiring trainers and providing substitute teachers, our very large school district has purchased licenses for a new web-based PD product. The entire website is based around teachers viewing video clips and then reflecting what they have learned from them. Many of the clips are simply digitized versions of decades-old instructional videos that weren’t all that helpful in their original, analog, form.
Right now, this service is being presented as a supplement to existing face-to-face workshop opportunities, but how long will it be before this is the model for all future professional development? I cringe at the thought that the advent of easy internet video streaming and pressing financial woes might inflict this type of boring, passive, meaningless education on professional educators. But, that’s just the beginning…
Worse than my personal disdain for this method of educational delivery is the hypocrisy that it represents. Why are we classroom teachers expected to use student-centered, interactive, inquiry-based instruction, with its proven effects on learning, if those who supervise us can ignore this research and force us to endure lecture-style lessons that wouldn’t have cut the pedagogical mustard fifty years ago?
The salt in my wounds, however, is my district’s reluctance to give professional development credits for the ongoing education that is taking place every day in my PLN. With the help of my many colleagues online, and some innovative communication tools, I am engaging in meaningful learning that enhances my performance in the classroom like no flash video from 1972 ever could. Despite my best efforts to convince the Powers That Be of the professional development value of my Personal Learning Network, they refuse to accept it as legitimate continuing education. How much sense does that make?