instructional coaching

Most of us will have to take part in professional development sessions either this summer or the week before school starts, and let’s be honest, much of it won’t be very interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how teachers can get more out of these mandatory inservices, and I’ve realized there are a few choices participants can make that will determine whether the training is at least moderately valuable or a complete waste of time. The tips that follow are things I’ve observed teachers doing (and have done myself) that resulted in PD being only slightly less painful that stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork. Try them out at your own risk.

How to completely waste your time in PD sessions--blog post. Hilarious!

Give your administrators full control over your professional learning. Refuse to implement any new technology or teaching strategies until you’ve received more boring PD on it. Make it your mantra that you will only learn what you’re told to learn. Let your principal decide what is important for you to be an expert in, and only attend trainings on those topics. After all, building your own professional learning network (PLN) and reading books and blog posts on professional topics you care about gives you ownership of your learning and empowers you as an educator. Is that what you really want?

How to completely waste your time in PD sessions--blog post. Hilarious!

Just because you don’t get credits for what you’re learning on your own doesn’t mean it’s not valuable!

Immediately point out all the reasons why a new idea won’t work. I’ve totally been guilty of this. In fact, I thought I doing the group a favor by saying what everyone else was thinking but was afraid to speak out loud. Now, I realize I was just derailing the learning of the entire group by forcing them to think about the limitations before they’d fully considered the possibilities. I’ve found that I learn a lot more when I just listen, reflect on all the options as they’re presented, and then brainstorm with the group or a colleague at the end of the session.

Focus on the three kids in your class for whom the new ideas will be completely ineffective. It’s tempting to block out the fact that the majority of your class could really benefit from the strategy, and spend the entire PD session fuming about how useless it is because little Johnny will never go for it. But let’s face it: there will always be at least three kids in your class with whom ANY teaching strategy will crash and burn. There are no teaching strategies that work 100% of the time with 100% of students, so it makes more sense to listen to the PD session with a full range of kids in mind.

How to completely waste your time in PD sessions--blog post.

Hold side conversations the whole time. This is a fantastic way to ruin a training, because talking will ensure that the PD becomes useless for your colleagues, as well. Bonus points for holding side conversations about how the ideas you’re hearing will never, ever work with your students. However, even on-topic side conversations will be enough to distract everyone around you and throw your presenter slightly off of his or her game. There’s nothing more awkward than one adult trying to get the attention of other adults in a professional setting, so chattering endlessly is a great way to make your presenter resort to annoying kindergarten-style attention grabbers which you can also complain about.

How to completely waste your time in PD sessions--blog post.

Jot down notes on a piece of paper and stick it in your file cabinet, never to be seen again. If you do manage to learn something in the PD session, be sure to keep it to yourself! If you blog about it, share it on social media, or talk with your colleagues about their thoughts, you’re likely to encourage them to try new things and improve their teaching. Sharing your learning also gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you heard and figure out how to apply it to your classroom practice. So, if you want to make sure the principles you learned never have an impact on students, bury those notes in a folder! Sharing and collaborating will only lead to more learning.

What’s your advice for teachers on how to get more (or less!) out of the professional development they attend? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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ISTE Conference 2012 Recap

21st century schools

ISTE 2012 just flew by this year! It was worth every penny and I am definitely going to save up again so I can go next year when it’s in San Antonio. You can read my initial reflections on the 2012 conference here. In this post, I’m going to combine the last two days of […]

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End of year reflection questions for teachers

instructional coaching

My intention was to create a beautiful, thoughtful end-of-year reflection form for you all and then use that form to reflect on my own work this year. However, I’m one week away from sending my latest book off for publication, and my brain is consumed with formatting and last-minute copyediting. Emotionally, I’m a little, well, […]

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Should schools buy technology teachers don’t want?

21st century schools

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of teachers in a lot of different schools. The schools include public and private, urban and suburban, and are located in wealthy and in high poverty neighborhoods. And yet in schools all across the country, there is the same phenomenon: only a handful of teachers use the […]

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Technology FAIL: Embracing tech when it doesn’t work

21st century schools

I think the #1 reason why some teachers resist integrating new technology in their classrooms isn’t that they’re scared of it. It’s not because they don’t have time to learn it and plan for it (although that might be reason #2). Many teachers don’t want to use technology because technology doesn’t work. The computers in […]

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True Life: I Work in a Jewish Girls’ School

instructional coaching

As the end of 2011 approaches, I thought it might be a nice time to share some interesting stories about what my instructional coaching work was like this past year. I’ve had the opportunity to do technology consulting in a type of learning environment that was completely new to me…and it has ended up being […]

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Do your classroom routines support the 4 C’s?

21st century schools

On Thursday, I gave a professional development session called “The 4 C’s and Beyond: Identifying the REAL Skills Our Students Need for the 21st Century.” The focus of the workshop was to explore why communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking are so important in the digital age. We looked at some fascinating facts about the changing global […]

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How to become an educational consultant

hot topics

UPDATE: Check out the new Edupreneur section of my website with more resources for doing educational consulting! I get emails on a regular basis from educators who want to make the move into consulting, but aren’t sure how to get started. They envision themselves coaching teachers, providing professional development, and supporting schools and teachers in a […]

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8 lessons I learned this school year

instructional coaching

The 2010-2011 school year was pretty unique for me, and full of ‘firsts’. It was my first year as an instructional technology coach, since last year I did math and literacy coaching. I also stepped out of my comfort zone and worked with mostly middle schools instead of elementary or K-8 schools. And finally, it […]

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Instructional coaching resources

instructional coaching

In my free time, I’ve been devouring a stack of instructional coaching books (am I a huge dork with no life, or just incredibly driven and ambitious? The question is still up for debate, and right now I’m leaning towards…yessss). I chose the titles based on one factor and one factor only: whether they were […]

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A day in the life of a literacy coach

instructional coaching

I’m doing a variety of consulting work in New York, and get a lot of questions about what it is, exactly, that I do. In some schools I do math coaching, but here’s a summary of a typical day for me when I wear the Literacy Coach hat. All identifying details are changed, of course, […]

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My resignation is now official.

i heart my kids

I have a problem writing blog entries after something major happens in my life. Do I try to compose a heart-rending account that encompasses the wide range of emotions I’ve been feeling? Should I give a quick bulleted list to catch you up on all the main points at once? Or try to gather some […]

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