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Mr. Teachbad: Please Differentiate Teachers' PD

Mr. Teachbad

 

Mr.Every teacher in-service day inevitably means school-coordinated professional development... which is likely to leave you with a big ironic question hanging in the air:


Why don't they differentiate my professional development training?

 

Differentiation: One Size Doesn't Fit All

Differentiation. That has to be one of the top 3 or 5 education words out there. Probably more so in urban districts.

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We have to be able to teach skills and content in such a way that kids at all different reading levels and with all different learning styles and disabilities will be able to master all the material and be constantly stimulated and challenged. That is our job and I think that, by and large, we accept this challenge. It is clearly one of the most important things we need to learn how to do. But it is difficult.

Another word we hear a lot in our jobs is “modeling”. You have to show kids what you want them to do in order for them to be able to do it themselves. This also makes sense and I think we, as educators, generally accept and try to do it.

Here’s my point. There are opportunities in the during these professional development extravaganzas to help teachers with these things and waste less of their time.

Applying Differentiation to Professional Development

My school has a very high turnover rate. In a system with 4000 teachers, my school alone accounted for approximately 10% of all new hires this year for the whole district. So every year there are a lot of new teachers. They need to hear certain stuff. Learn certain things about the district and our school.

But other teachers have been there for, say, 4-8 years. Do they need to hear the same stuff? No.

Other teachers, not many, have been there since the newest people were in elementary school.

Do we all need to sit through the same stuff? No, I say to you. NO!

If anybody with power and authority cares about the dignity of their veteran teachers, they will fix this ridiculous system that compels people to simply be in a certain place for a certain number of hours doing whatever.

Where's My Modeling?

We do this so kids can see exactly what we want them to do. This is behavior stuff as well as content and skills. We show and then they know what to do.

Here’s the meat:
Instead of treating us all like idiots during professional development…making us do think-pair-share (shoot me), telling me that now is the time to begin a new entry in my notebook and what it should be called, and making me act out how to enforce the rules of the school…

 

How about if you demonstrate how to differentiate professional development for a group of people who are at least as different as the kids in my class? Then you kill two birds with one stone.

  1. 1) You don’t treat your professional staff like fools, and
  2. 2) You demonstrate what is perhaps the most important skill of our profession.

But instead, you do the same tired schtick you did last year.

I would like you to show me how to differentiate a real-life, honest-to-goodness AP course (our school is “AP for all”) that includes kids who are out-of-this-world sharp and kids who are ADHD and autistic and all manner of non-compliant and disinterested.


Something’s got to give. Which might explain why almost nobody in our school can pass the AP exam. I saw that stats yesterday. It’s atrocious.


What are your professional development comments, complaints or suggestions for improvement? Share in the comments section!

 

An edited version of this article was reprinted with permission from the author. The original was posted by Mr. Teachbad on Mr. Teachbad's Blog of Teacher Disgruntlement.