Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, 15 hours of Flexible Professional Development is coming to ISD 912 in Milaca, MN and perhaps a school near you. If your school is anything like mine, what starts out as a beautiful plan meets initial push back and opposition.
Here are 9 Myths uncovered about Flexible PD (at least in Milaca).
Myth #1: Teachers don’t have time for Flexible PD.
Flexible means you can structure your professional development during times that fit your needs. By definition, flexible means you schedule your opportunities for growth and strength building during the times that work for you. It also means that it can change or modify the time of your PD based on ever changing demands on your time.
Myth #2: Flexible PD must be done after school, in the building.
Flexible means that locations of learning are varied. Some staff work/learn best in school, others learn best at workshops, others learn best in their PJ’s on the couch with a cup of coffee. Flexible PD allows the teacher-learner to choose the setting that works best for them. I know the visualization of some of us in our PJ’s can be scary, but the opportunities that can be unlocked are not.
Myth #3: Flexible PD topics are chosen by principals; teachers won’t have a choice.
Flexible means that PD opportunities are varied and versatile. The best PD is that which is most relevant to the teacher and to improving learning in the classroom. That means individual choice is essential. Cindy Helmers, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Bloomington School District 87 in Bloomington, IL describes what teachers should look for in choosing their own PD, “Pick professional development to follow your passion or remediate a challenge area.” Flexible PD opens opportunities to try new things. It gives you a chance to work on areas of strength and develop in areas of needed growth.
Myth #4: Flexible PD must happen all at one time.
The idea here is that if you are really going to set aside time for growth and development, that it should be meaningful and significant amount. A half hour here and there spread apart by great periods of time will not allow for sustainable professional development. Delving deep for even two hours at a time helps to make the PD more relevant to you and as a result to your students. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be two consecutive hours, but 2 hours should be dedicated to the same topic. For example, if I am going to watch a 1 hour webinar on a math instructional practice and then meet with other math teachers for 1 hour a week later, I’ve just completed a 2 hour block. Think of the amount of learning which could take place if these routine was completed over the course of a semester, or even a school year.
Myth #5: Flexible PD must be completed with people you already know.
Flexible PD will work best when you have someone to collaborate and share with. You can hold each other accountable and can debrief more deeply when you have someone to bounce ideas off of. However, Flexible PD offers a great opportunity to grow you Personal Learning Network (PLN). Many social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, provide a great outlet for this. Experts in many areas of education routinely share amazing ideas and opportunities and routinely make themselves available for teachers who are trying to improve their craft.
Myth #6: Flexible PD time must only be completed during the school year.
Flexible means it is available to you anytime you are ready for it. Even during the summer. Even as you dip your toes into the lake or want to connect while sunning on the beach. Many great workshops/conferences are offered during the summer because teacher schedules become more open. These give teachers not just the opportunity to learn new things, but also to make connections with other teachers and grow your PLN.
Myth #7: Workshops can't be counted as Flexible PD
Flexible PD can be done at any time, but to avoid contractual issues of “double dipping” you are probably not going to be able to count any workshops you go to that take place during normal school hours. You may be able to count any of the hours that you are at a conference or workshop that fall outside of the normal school day. If a group of you go to a conference and then spend 2 hours afterward debriefing and discussing what was learned, you can probably count those hours
Myth #8: Reflecting on Flexible PD is unnecessary.
At Milaca, 1 of the 15 hours of Flexible PD must be used for reflection. It is a minimum as it reflects only 1/2 hour per semester. As education and learning pioneer John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience... we learn from reflecting on experience.” Reflection is where connections can be made from what was learned by the teacher to how it can be directly impactful for students in the classroom. While reflection might be slightly uncomfortable to start with, it will actually be a beneficial and worthwhile endeavor.
Myth #9: Flexible PD is personal and only matters to the individual teacher. It doesn't need to be shared.
What you learn matters a great deal to your students, especially if it is going to lead to new and better ways of teaching and learning. What you learn can also make an impact on other teachers who may have a similar passion or growth area. You won’t ever know unless you share it with others.
What other myths about Flexible PD exist? As you start to make your Flexible PD plans for next year, ignore the myths and focus on what matters most: Learning!