PD: Ask teachers to teach their passions

Pete Rodrigues’s recent post on building capacity inspired me to comment. As is often the case, my thinking didn’t cease with the posting of the comment.

Here’s the comment:

I’ve started wondering about the different approaches to determining the topics of PD.

I get that the current model runs on the idea of either running sessions on the newest fad or those areas of need identified within the educational setting.

What about this? What if you went to your teachers and said, “I’ll give you an hour to develop a PD session around something about which you’re passionate.”

Of course, they’d have to keep in mind the need for differentiation.

Still, think of the untapped energy that could come from such a question.

I haven’t stopped thinking about that energy.

What if, for an hour, your school’s art teacher led a lesson on painting, your choir teacher took an hour to teach the importance of harmony, your anatomy teacher helped the faculty through a dissection.

This wouldn’t be teaching about teaching, but actually teaching. Literally teachers as students.

This need not be limited to classroom passions. If an algebra teacher wants to teach on the beauties of pop music or social activism or Chopin, so be it.

Pete’s reply raises the important factors of culture shift and compensation. I see them as difficulties, but not impossible ones.

Start small with lunch groups. PD leaders can model by switching up and teaching a session on what they’re passionate about. Ask students to model and their passions around video games or texting or reading or music or sports or whatever those crazy kids are doing these days.

More than requiring a culture shift, I’m thinking passion-based PD would act as a catalyst for a culture shift.

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Teachers aren’t the worst audience

Khanyiso, Mlungisi and I were in charge of leading the session on multimedia in the classroom Wednesday. It was the afternoon and the usual grumblings about too much theory and not enough practice had begun in a small contingent of teachers.

They were ready for some hands on.

To get us started, I pulled up Schooltube and Teachertube to grab a few examples. The first was not so academic. The second, though, led to some interesting conversation about how the use of multimedia ICTs could be of use in the classroom.

The teachers could see how learners would be required to incorporate learning across multiple areas of study to create a short video on a given topic.

We’d talked about this in the theory portion of the week when discussing the importance of collaboration.

The teachers could tell how creating multimedia products would require learners to do new things using new tools.

We’d talked about the Literacy, Adaptive and Transformative levels of ICT integration earlier in the week, so they were able to point it out and use the language.

The teachers discussed what it would take to locate the information the learners had used in the sample video.

We’d talked about information literacy and search strategies earlier. A trend was forming.

If I’d been a different kind of fellow, I would have noted how all the theory was necessary to name the practice and discuss it using common language. If I’d been a real jerk, I would have pointed out how important the part they were complaining about was proving to be during the part they’d been clamoring for.

I’m neither of those types.

Instead, I said things like, “If you remember what Chris said about refining search terms in his session earlier…” or “What’s the difference between the transformative learning in this example versus the adaptive learning Cyndy talked about Tuesday?”

Teachers, it’s been said until it needs not be said anymore, are the worst audience. I don’t know how much I agree with that.

Teachers are learners. We make assumptions they’re inherently more willing to listen to someone else drone on and on than children. They’re not.

They’re learners.

Yes, the stages of development are different, but they still have learning styles, they still need to move, they still need to be engaged. And, learning, oftentimes, is a difficult and uncomfortable process for them.

I love it.