Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dissertation Idea

I have been considering a number of topics for my dissertation which I will be writing over the next year or so. I have a serious interest in the role professional development, opportunities to attend and present at professional conferences, and opportunities to collaborate with teachers from other districts has on young teachers' attitudes, innovation and ultimately retention both in a district as well as retention in the profession of teaching. When budgets get tight, more often than not, professional development and professional travel are often the first things in a budget to get cut. This is true even when there are staff which are no longer needed and could be reduced or staff that should be pressured/coached to improve or hang it up. We are a people profession and as such try to keep people we no longer need because we feel this is the right thing to do. We don't want to lose our young teachers. We don't want those we feel are already grossly under compensated to have to work even harder for the same amount of money. We don't feel there is enough of each of us to go around and the concept of working smarter or differently rather than just doing the same things with fewer people is not normal educational thinking.
I am the product of my professional experiences. I not only invested in my own professional growth, but was fortunate to work for districts that also invested in me. I have had opportunities to attend professional conferences both as a participant as well as those times I presented at them. I believe this is what enabled me to feel confident enough to try new things and assume leadership roles in each of the schools I have worked.
I think student achievement gains are positively impacted by the enthusiastic and innovative teachers in the building and to have those, continued investments must be made in professional development through opportunities to attend professional conferences.


  1. I would agree that you have made and received opportunities for personal advancement through professional development. Much of this came from your drive to know and apply your learning, not the other way around. People that are not looking for these opportunities are simply not going to apply what is available.

    On the other note of PD, you are 100% accurate that when money gets tight, we skip these types of opportunities. The same typically goes with field trips, activities, and sports. In addition, if we do reductions, we start with associates and clerical positions typically. There is a strong desire to maintain the number of teachers we have, and there are good reasons to do so, but there are also huge benefits from everything listed above. When the money gets tight, it seems like the PD, travel, field trips, etc. take the hit, but I wonder if this is when we should be investing in this to improve the teaching that could happen. Maybe it's a different phrasing for what you mention as doing smarter or differently above. The most money is saved by RIF (and most emotional approach too - probably the reason we avoid it), and if we could maximize the learning by preparing teachers through PD and opportunitites, maybe it wouldn't be such a difficult transition for those still fighting the battle.

    Good luck on the dissertation and figuring out the details. You would be a good one to do this topic. What is your point/perspective that you want to tackle?

  2. I will list the most meaningful PD's that I have ever attended were not so much the one's I would of chosen but were the one's that were the most relative to what was being taught in my classroom or what should or could be taught in my classroom. They were given by teachers with experience in the classroom, current and past. They were not done in one day and then considered over they involved meeting with staff and working through ideas weekly and monthly. Visiting other school sites implementing teaching strategies was a vital part that showed the teachers involved the school district was serious about learning the technique. Staff can tell when administrators have a buy in on a PD topic or when they are just fullfilling the state mandated differianted learning quota. The other type of PD that was very valuable was when teacher teams presented. Staff are valuable resources and have relationships and respect built into the message. When I was presenting I really worked hard to be involved in the topic and welcomed interest and questions from staff and when the PD was over could be used as a source in the building. Now I will say some PD teaching teams that presented were not that good but hey not any worse than other PD sources. Now my interest in the PD conversation is what I have said to marshall before, the specialist teachers are the most underutilized staff in the building when it comes to PD. They get included in the core components and excluded by being included. Perhaps your disertation could develop the idea that special teachers (art,music, pe, ag, etc) could be included in tech development, data collecting, presentation, research. Make us work for our money during PD's instead of trying to discuss non-numbers, and dangling participle benchmarks. We are some of the most creative teachers and are waiting to add that creativity to PD's.