At some point we have to hold people responsible for being self-learners. In many other jobs, you keep up on own or get fired. (via @mcleod)This quote came from a leader in edtech, Scott McLeod, on Twitter a few days ago. (You might have seen his work on the Shift Happens video series.) I have been thinking about that quote for a while now. Why is it in education, some teachers get a "pass" when it comes to Professional Development when in other professions they would be tossed to the curb?
I will give you an example. I use to be a science teacher at a fairly large middle school. Our staff was diverse with a good mix of fresh, new teachers and teachers with several years of experience. There was one teacher who had been around for almost 30 years. She taught social studies, a subject that one would think you would need to stay fresh and up on current methods and events. Not this teacher. She refused to take textbook adoptions or attend required professional development because she would have to change her lesson plans from her first year of teaching. While she attempted to integrate current events, students still read about history from books almost 30 years old.
You would think the school or district would not allow this to happen but they did! Why? She was a very powerful member of the local teachers organization and very active at the state level. The school and district were afraid of what she might possibly do if they stepped in. So in this case, instead of caring about the education of the students in her class, administration cared about public image and staying on the good side of this group.
Now, this is an extreme case but it is an example of what I am thinking about. Teachers all over refuse to take part in professional development for whatever reason. I see it every day in what I do. Teachers don't want to learn about technology because they are afraid they won't know or they don't have time to integrate the tools in their class for whatever reason.
I don't believe in forcing teachers into professional development. I only want participants in what I teach who want to be there, who want to embrace technology and see a value in it. But shouldn't teachers exemplify what it means to be a life-long learner? Our kids, starting in Pre-School come to us surrounded by technology. It is what they do all day with computers, cell phones, gaming, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, and more, yet in some classrooms and schools they walk in each day and are told to put your cell phone away, no Facebook, games are bad, and instead they "learn" with pencils, papers and books that are out of date the moment they are printed.
So what do you think? Should we have "required" professional development? Should teachers take responsibility for their own learning and growth? What happens if they don't? What would you do to the teacher in my example? Start a conversation...I would love to hear your thoughts!