Friday, October 06, 2017

To PD or Not to PD?

These days a whole lot of teachers need a whole lot of special PD credit. It's called CTLE credit. Not everyone needs it. If I'm not mistaken, you don't need it for your initial certificate. Also if you're an antique like me with a permanent license you don't need it either.

But if you're in the great middle, you need those credits. You need 100 of them over five years. Now here's the thing--the DOE doesn't necessarily offer it. Technically, they are a vendor now, after a year of not being one. But they can't necessarily keep records. Having visited them many times, I wouldn't trust them to remember anything.  They also can't just get up and give classes without approval. They haven't bothered with the whole due diligence thing. You know, that's for teachers.

So when your principal gets up and says lateness is bad, that kids shouldn't be late, that you should tell them not to be late, and that the whole being late thing is just not okay, and when he explains that for ninety minutes, it doesn't mean you're gonna get the CTLE credit for it. You'll have to go out and get some yourself. You might even have to pay for it.

In fact, our principal sent out a list of CTLE courses during school hours. When I asked whether he was planning to release teachers to take these courses, he said, and I quote, "Yes." I was happily surprised. (Maybe this could start a trend.)

Now one of the super-wonderful things about the last contract, according to leadership, was that teachers would now have a voice in PD. There would be teacher-led PD, and it would no longer be a long lecture on exactly why students shouldn't be late. That sounds good, but it's not necessarily practical. In my school, for example, our PD committee offered teachers ten per-session hours to prepare PD. While I think that was a very fair offer, not many teachers responded.

But let's say they did. If that were to happen, a whole lot of teachers would sit through a PD that might not work for them. They would be frustrated. What am I doing here when I'm not getting the credit I need to keep my license? Do you want to get up in front of a crowd like that and tell them about the new program you're using in your class? Maybe they'll be polite. Maybe they won't. But that's what you call a tough crowd.

I was trained last summer, by UFT, to give CTLE hours in ESL. I did this because I thought that I'd be helping people who need them. But guess what? People who don't need CTLE hours are not necessarily thrilled by it. I got to hear all about that when I offered PD to my staff. A lot of people just don't want to do PD at all.

Now you could argue that, hey, PD is necessary because we need to learn constantly. We need to improve constantly. Nonetheless, I've been doing this for three decades, and I'd estimate, very conservatively, that 95% of it has been a waste of time. So I absolutely understand cynicism. Calling it CTLE doesn't necessarily make it worthwhile.

I spoke with a young teacher a few weeks ago who said that his school had particular needs, and that PD would be very helpful. He thought it was a way for teachers to support one another. That makes sense to me. In fact, it makes more sense than hitting people with sledge hammers and saying, "You will take this PD." The problem is there are a whole lot of sledge hammers out there. Some are CTLE and some aren't.

Finding really valuable PD is tough. What I need might not be what you need. The whole CTLE thing is kind of a buzzkill. It was difficult to begin with. But to tell people you need this particular sort of PD, to mandate it, and then not offer it, borders on insane. So very new teachers don't require PD at all, but may be in dire need of it. Teachers with newer certificates have dire need of CTLE credit but are unlikely to get it at work. The last group, people like me, may need something but don't require it at all.

Go ahead and try to persuade me that PD is valuable. My experience tells me it isn't. Placing the title CTLE on it won't change my mind. Actually I'd love to see valuable PD that addressed my concerns. Oddly, most of the things I worry about are outside of the classroom. The classroom itself is one of the most peaceful areas I know of. That's not to say my classroom isn't crazy, and that's not to say the craziness in my classroom isn't my fault. Nonetheless, it's one of my favorite places ever.

Outside of the classroom I spend an awful lot of time reading about problems I don't have, problems that don't exist, and what an awful person I am for taking money for my work. I hear about some of those things at PD. Sometimes I hear utter nonsense. Frequently, in fact.

I went this summer so I could help people. I don't want my members losing their licenses. If I can give them a few hours, I will. Now I can't just say what I say here and get them credit. And some of them might be bored out of their gourds. I'm practical, though. If I can help them get hours they need, I absolutely will.

Of course, the UFT idea of teacher-generated PD is smarter and better. But it's a hard sell when you lose your job without the CTLE. This is kind of a rock/ hard place situation.
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