Professional development does not have to be work. Same with the classroom. I hear teachers talk about their work that day or the workshop that made their brain hurt. Where’s the joy? When you teach to the test and focus on increasing scores, just watch the faces of the students. Are they engaged or motivated?
Look back at preschool and what Kindergarten used to be like. The room was set up with learning centers and students were talking and laughing together. There was learning going on. You could hear it and see it. I used to put on professional development sessions that were more like this type of Kindergarten room. I taught claymation to teachers where they worked in teams, created a storyboard together, assigned each other characters or objects to create with the clay, and so on. The giggles and laughter that ensued was pervasive. The whole room was laughing during the session. Then they would video and lay music over the video. When we were all done, we had a show… with popcorn.
Real learning by doing… and FUN!!! I miss that. There seems to be a whole generation of teachers that missed this type of professional development. For the past 8-9 years, all professional development seems to be focused on data, improving scores, and accountability. I know we need that, but here’s my take on it. The scores are based on standardized tests and our kids are not standardized. They are all different. Teachers are all different. So we use the scores to determine our improvement on AYP and the gaps. We use that data to help us design and drive the curriuclum. But what about supplementing these tests by following a student’s progress by collecting evidence of learning along with reflections in an ePortfolio? Authentic assessment where the student analyzes what they learned and now understands. Teachers could then correlate the test scores with actual evidence and share their own reflections to help the student improve.
I taught a project on advertising for multiple grade levels where I remember the kids saying to me “I didn’t know learning could be this much fun.” I loved that. Think back when you were learning something where you walked away feeling really good and it was fun. Remember that? I do. I remember making a paper maché map of the world with others students and then doing a presentation. That was hard but fun. I remember walking home feeling a joy in my heart that I did it. I know it now. I had struggled with the concepts, but that project made it real.
We need to make the concepts real to our students and bring the joy back to learning.
What are your priorities in learning?