Why Should I be Here? Reflections on a Terrible Staff Development

In an odd twist of academic calendar fate, our district had an early winter break this year, and our first day back was January 2nd. Kindly, it was a staff development day, but with a twist this year; different departments were asked to deliver sessions. The EdTech department fanned out around the district offering sessions centered on our LMS platform.

I had the brilliant idea of offering a session that would take user pain points, and help them see how to solve the challenges, and move into a more comfortable space. I thought that it was brilliant, but as I started to prepare, I realized that I don’t truly understand the day to day pain points of the platform because I don’t use it as a classroom teachers. I wanted it to be relevant, so I decided to poll my participants. As you can imagine, my email sent over the break didn’t have a ton of responses, or any.

Never one to give up, I stood up at 10 am on January 2 – two hours into the first day back after a long holiday, and asked my room full of bleary-eyed participants what issues they were facing with our LMS. Guess what I heard? Crickets.

I stared at them as they stared at me, and finally a few questions started trickling through. I muddled through, but knew that somewhere along the way I had gone terribly wrong.

Catching up on email, I came across this post from George Couros regarding the importance of sales in education. I wish I had read this before January 2! I know that we must always start with “why”, but I didn’t take that into consideration at all. I didn’t take into consideration why the people in my room were sitting there, and didn’t try to sell them on why I was leading a professional development in a totally weird way.

I didn’t let my teacher students know what type of professional development was coming their way. In their shoes, I would have been under the impression that I was going into a training where an “expert” was going to fix all of my issues, or at least try. Instead, I tried to turn the tables on them. Without warning, and without selling them on why this would be a good idea. For all of my bright ideas for teaching teachers like I want them to teach students, I haven’t sold anyone on professional development this way. I haven’t explained why personalized professional learning is amazing, or why teachers would want to be in the driver’s seat of their own learning. I certainly didn’t make our time together compelling!

I’m not a salesman. I don’t have the words or charisma. Guess it’s time to learn! There must be a way to help teachers see the why in professional learning, and not just as a check box on their to do list.

What compelling staff development have you attended? What made it compelling? Why was in interesting? Help me on my quest for amazing professional learning. 🙂

Cheers,

KW

2 thoughts on “Why Should I be Here? Reflections on a Terrible Staff Development”

  1. I love your honesty here! I’ve been to similar PD sessions….unfortunately some related to our new LMS! But one of the best was recently when there were about 10 different 1-hour sessions and we could choose 2. It was awesome to go to things we were interested in. I presented one of the sessions and noticed some people even putting things into practice the next day! Choice is a great thing, and if the “why” is apparent, that helps even more.
    Thanks for all you do for teachers!

    1. A great idea – one I will need to try soon. I’d love to get some “power users” involved in the training. Real users always help with the “why?”.

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