The summer is generally a time for teachers to attend staff development sessions. Teachers newly hired may find themselves attending a workshop just two or three days after they've accepted a teaching position. For those of us who've been in the profession for a while, we come to think of staff development as torture equal to any medieval stretching machine. However, staff development should be a time of professional growth and continuing education. Here are some things you can do to help turn a potential waste of time into a valuable experience.
Take the learning into your own hands
Remember that YOU are the one who needs to benefit from this information. Come to the session with an open mind and a willingness to learn. Just as our students need to be open to what we teach them, so should we be open to what others have to teach us. You never know what jewel of an idea or strategy you may discover. Remember that this is life-long learning.
Do not bring anything else to do
Although you run the risk of being bored, take a chance and be proactive in your learning. If you don't bring any other tasks with you to the workshop, you won't be tempted to start working on them while the presenter is speaking. It is difficult to listen and learn when your mind is focused on other tasks.
Request meaningful activities and information
Before the workshop begins, speak with the presenter and request that they give practical ways to apply and implement the information throughout their presentation rather than all at the end or only in a handout. If you let the person in charge know what you are looking for ahead of time, he/she may be able to adapt the presentation to meet your requests.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
Go ahead and speak up. If something is confusing to you, raise your hand and ask for clarification. The workshop will not do you any good if you sit through half of it confused. Most likely if you are confused, several others are too! Also, ask for examples of how strategies presented would work in the classroom. Don't wait until the end to ask your questions, but instead ask when the question is pertinent.
Go with a positive attitude
We are always saying this to our students and it applies to us as well. If you walk into a staff development with a poor attitude and no intention of learning anything, then you will have a wasted day. If, however, you walk in with an open mind and positive attitude, you just may get several great ideas to use during the school year! I find that sometimes I get ideas, not only from the workshop itself, but also from casual conversations or side conversations happening during the workshop.
Encourage others around you to maintain a positive outlook regarding the workshop
We all know teachers who prefer to sit in the back and complain about the workshop before it even begins. This negative attitude can infect everyone around that person which causes a chain reaction through the room. Instead of responding to a negative comment with a negative comment, try to infect that person with your positive attitude. You might try pointing out something positive for each negative comment he/she says. If all else fails, move to another seat so that you are not distracted.
Provide specific constructive feedback to the presenters
If the workshop still ends up making it on your "worst" list, let those in charge know why it was a complete bust. Donít forget to start out with one or two positive comments first. Be sure to offer a couple of suggestions for correcting the problems. Sometimes those who are presenting staff developments forget how to be good teachers. Your comments may help someone else have a great staff development. Who knows, perhaps one day you'll find yourself presenting to a group of teachers and will appreciate helpful feedback from them!