Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Professional Development Fails

If you are like me, I dread teacher in-service days. Although these days are devoted to teacher training, in many ways, these in-services present overarching topics which have no application to me and to my classroom, or they are poorly implemented. Let me make it clear up front that I am a firm believer that teachers continuously need to better themselves in their craft and that ongoing professional development needs to play an important part of a teacher's career. The problem lies in forcing teachers to attend professional in-services which do not treat or view teachers as "professionals." As a result, most teachers find professional development insulting.

In my educational leadership courses in my Ed.S program, I learned much about proper professional development facilitation. One of the primary reasons why professional development courses fail (outside of no teacher input in what is being offered, hence there is no buy-in) is that there is absolutely no proper follow up afterwards. Most in-services cast out a net of general information, but unfortunately, the net is never retrieved to see who is interested. Those who wish to learn more are left empty-handed and are forced to pursue further information on their own, or they end up leaving it behind, because it is just too much work to pursue on their own; most often, the latter occurs. 

I feel like the same can be said about CI training. Teachers attend CI sessions at conferences or even a weeklong conference like NTPRS or IFLT, and as a result, they walk away with a desire to implement what they have learned. However, when these teachers have questions or their CI buzz starts to wear off and need that extra bit of motivation from a mentor, they have nowhere to turn really for continuous professional CI development. While blogs, professional learning networks (PLN), and social media can help, they can only go so far - there is nothing like personal interaction and mentoring from those in a CI community.

I will admit that I am 100% guilty of perpetuating this problem. For the past few summers, along with a number of CI teachers in my district, I have helped create and facilitate a district-wide 20-hour, 4-day CI workshop for interested world language teachers; over 40 teachers have attend each of these workshops. This past summer, Bob Patrick, Rachel Ash, and I delivered a 6-hour PreInstitute CI workshop at the American Classical League Summer Institute, and over 50 Latin teachers attended! In each of these cases, I wanted to have some type of follow-up training (either face-to-face or online) for those who attended, but unfortunately, life and work got in the way. I wonder how many of these teachers who were so gung-ho about CI following these workshops have fallen by the wayside and have returned to their former ways of teaching, because there was no one there to aid in their CI development. Even as I write this, I am trying to create a TCI Atlanta/GA group for CI teachers in my area, but I am finding it difficult to carve out time for it. O that CI professional development and follow-up could be my full-time job!

I am so grateful though that all over the country, pockets of CI communities have been developing which have served as support and a place for continued CI development. Local groups such as TriStates TCI and TCI Ohio offer ongoing professional CI training opportunities and community (this is why I would like to form a TCI Atlanta/GA group), and 1-2 day CI regional conferences like TCI Maine, CI Iowa, and CI Midwest are gaining momentum and popularity among CI users. 

Are you looking for some local CI support and community? Here are some suggestions:
  • On her blog, Martina Bex has compiled a list of CI teachers from all over the country who have volunteered to be a support for interested CI users.
  • Consider forming a local TCI group in your area. It only takes a few interested teachers to do this. Years ago, Alaska CI teachers Martina Bex, Michele Whaley, Betsy Paskvan and others began meeting on a Friday evening to share ideas - what a group that must have been! I still say that one day I need to go to Alaska so that I can learn Spanish from Martina, Japanese from Betsy, and Russian from Michele.
  • Network like crazy when attending CI workshops! 
For those teachers wanting support, I wish you the best in finding local CI support. I am not much of a CI expert, but you can always drop me an email ( or leave a comment on my blog if you need some community. For those of you in the Atlanta/GA, I am in the process of crafting an email which will announce the formation of a TCI Atlanta/GA group. Now if I can remember to finish it and to push "send"...

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