Monday, April 18, 2011

I Don't Want More Professional Development

by Shelly Blake-Plock

We don't need more "professional" development. We need social development. Or at least we need to recognize it and recognize that the ultimate outcomes we often desire from the best of professional development are actually an outcome of social development. We need a development of human capacity, not an adherence to the rules of our established profession. We need to build our relationships for the purpose of furthering our humanity, not furthering our careers.

And we know this instinctually. We know that Rosetta Stone can teach a foreign language as well if not better than a foreign language teacher, no matter how much "professional development" a teacher has; and yet through real relationships and social competence, that foreign language teacher can foster a love of language that trumps the didactic prowess of the program.

We know that the best thinkers will end up skipping over much of what we put in front of them to pursue their own interests despite whatever "professional development" we have; and we can either nail 'em for failing to read whatever arbitrary 19th century novel we put in front of them or we can celebrate their independence and the bloom of autodidactism that we have often recognized in ourselves -- not because an expert told us it was there, but because we've had our eyes open for a long time... that's part of the reason we are teachers to begin with, after all.

We know that our ability to follow the procedure of a learning strategy will never trump our ability to look into the eyes of a student and say, "trust me".

We are teachers and we are in the business of relationships, motivation, and the facilitation of dreams.

And so we develop ourselves. On blogs. On Twitter. Throughout the PLN. We have used the opportunity of the tools at our disposal to engage in an older and vastly more satisfying form of professional development than the mandatory in-service. We've developed a relationship with development. We are engaging with our growth and our communal experience in an open, social, and mutually beneficial way.

We are all teachers teaching teachers. We are all responsible for each other's development. We are responsible for our profession, yes; but more importantly, we are responsible for our kids' futures. And the future isn't built on "a way" of doing something. It's built on finding a way -- and the emphasis is on the finding.

And for all of our theories, all of our curriculum design, all of our talk of standards and guidelines -- nothing trumps the fact that the world is not a well-oiled machine.

There is no such thing as perfect grammar. There is no such thing as a right answer.

There are only relationships between things.

The world is not professional. The world -- at least our communal experience of it and of one another -- is social. So let's keep up this conversation. Let's help one another out. And let's keep our eye on the meandering path of the ever changing social development of that thing we call education and those we call educators.


  1. Wow. So smart. Love this point of view. Please make sure all administrators read this.

  2. You had me at "I Don't Want More Professional Development." :)

  3. I couldn't agree with you more. Lately I have been really annoyed by the term training, but you have made me realize that even professional development is not the right term either.

    Those of us out here on blogs and networks are creating something. Something social. I will not recap what you said so eloquently. Thanks for this sharing with admin now!

  4. I basically agree about the nature of personal and interpersonal development.

    Except I find that the social networking isn't enough for me. If I tweet or post an idea, all I get back is 'Great idea!' I get very little useful criticism, and I get the impression that offering that criticism would not be seen as favorable. We're all too polite to each other. We don't challenge each other. For instance:

    "There is no such thing as perfect grammar. There is no such thing as a right answer.
    There are only relationships between things."

    That is, I suppose, true. But there is more effective grammar and less effective grammar; there are better answers and not very useful or dreadfully inaccurate answers; there are interesting, useful relationships and superficial or artificial relationships. If we are going to do this, we should draw the distinctions between these and ask serious questions about what we're doing. There needs to be some tension to it.

  5. I am not sure how many of the readers here have ever been on Second Life. If you have, you may have noticed what your avatar does when you log off...the avatars body goes limp and their head dips to the right and their chin rests on their shoulder.

    Well everyone here seems to be in a Teacher Second Life while reading this blog. When we leave here and go to school our personas do exactly what a second life avatar does---we go limp and turn our heads away from the reality around us.

    And the reason we do it, we are afraid of losing our jobs. And it is a founded fear. If you do not go to sleep and say the same things in faculty meetings, professional development or training sessions, in the faculty room, in meetings with principal, or out on the playground or in the lunch room, that you espouse here, you very well may get fired. School is about control. This blog is about liberation!We all talk liberation but are we willing to walk liberation.

    Every revolution has it casualties. If you really want a revolution it may be you. It has been me.

  6. I'm not sure "development" should be the term we use, either way. Social engagement? Yes. Social interaction? Yes. I'll even allow for a term like "professional growth" since it borrows from a more natural / organic semantic environment. However, the term "development" seems to be business and political oriented.

  7. Maybe what you don't want (or need) is professional development that sucks. Something is terribly wrong when a 30 veteran of the classroom says they've only been to 2 professional development sessions that were valuable. Time after time teachers admit many PD days are utterly worthless. Some people who aren't teachers are devoted to serving teachers...because it's who YOU serve that matters most. Some of us believe we may be able to help serve teachers. We may not be teachers. We just believe in those of you who are. Over 30 years building businesses brought me to a place where I wanted to serve those of you who serve our children. It's a labor of love that began when my two (now grown children) entered their own classrooms, as teachers. Every group, in any space, is well served by connecting with others within the tribe, but sometimes bits of wisdom can come from beyond the fences.

  8. I don't even like the term, "professional development." Maybe it could be replaced by "professional learning" (because there are still things I need and want to learn to become better at my work), or perhaps it's just adult learning. Whatever we call it, I think the best "PD" is personal, social, and voluntary. Thanks for a great post.

  9. I like to term "professional development" if it means leveraging what a teacher knows and can do to student achievement. I've said more about this topic here:

  10. Well said! I am so tired of the same old strategies being repackaged and then required as "professional development." So, we end up being forced to sit through things we have already learned instead of being given the freedom to explore topics on our own.

  11. Love what you have written here. I sent this link out to my colleagues and it resonated deeply.


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