Thursday, February 27, 2020

DIY Professional Development

In my last post, What Educators Can Learn From Punk Rock, I talked about how punk rock can truly be an inspiration to educators by bringing passion, questioning the status quo, and much more.  Since that post, as I mentioned at the end of it, I have found a crew of people on social media that I didn't even know existed: other educators, like myself, that love punk rock and want to incorporate aspects of punk culture into teaching.  So if you aren't already, follow Mike Earnshaw (@mearnshaw158) and Josh Buckley (@JoshRBuckley) and their podcast, the Punk Rock Classrooms Podcast (@punkclassrooms, #punkrockclassrooms) on all of the podcasting apps.  

One major aspect of punk culture is a DIY attitude.  Whether it is fixing up a denim jack with patches fastened on with safety pins, making your own tapes and album liner notes to hand out at shows (definitely a 90s things), or setting up your gear for the show, punks know how to do it themselves.  And as educators, we should all be experts in DIY culture as well since we need to improvise many things with slim budgets and a lack of resources.  Another aspect of teaching that should incorporate a strong DIY attitude is professional development.  If you are reading this, you most likely already have that attitude, but hear me out...

Are you getting much from a mandatory professional development day
on a regular basis?  
Think of the last time that you attended a school or district mandatory training.  Was it interesting?  Was it engaging?  Did you leave that training with new ideas that you could immediately implement in your classroom?  The answer to these questions, in my experience, has been a resounding "NO." Most of the required trainings that I have attended in my career as an educator have reiterated points that we already know (my personal favorite, the 7-hour lecture by an "expert" about how lecture doesn't work for our students), reviewed procedural mandates that are already emphasized regularly, or some other topic that has most attendees disengaged.  Or, knowing ahead of time how excruciating the day will most likely be, many teachers simply do not attend by arranging for doctors appointments, taking a personal day, or "coming down sick" the night before or morning of the training. 

While you may not have much control over those mandatory professional development days, you can most certainly control your professional development in other aspects.  You are reading this and you most likely are reading other educational blogs, perhaps even writing your own.  You are probably engaged in social media as a professional and listening to podcasts.  Are you engaging in meaningful conversations and planning with your colleagues?  Are you attending local events hosted by educational groups?  Are you going to large events like ISTE, Spring CUE, or other regional and national conferences?  Are you connecting with educators outside of your school or district?  If you aren't you are missing an opportunity to take ownership of your professional development. 

When you immerse yourself in some or all of the items above, you are giving yourself the choice in what you want to learn more about.  When you make the choice, you are not fed something that you most likely know or will not engage with during the training.  And if you choose to read something, listen to something, or attend something and don't like it, you have the choice to move on to something else. 

Now don't get me wrong, there are times when the mandatory trainings are very important.  You should not tune out in a meeting that is introducing a new school or district policy.  You should pay attention during the test security meetings so you know what not to do when proctoring a high stakes test (opinions on testing, while valid, definitely for another time).  But if you have been in education for any amount of time, you have most likely sat in many trainings where they simply did not speak to you. 

So, are you ready to embrace a DIY attitude and take control of your professional development?  Are you ready to rely on yourself to learn rather than whatever is thrown at your on those mandatory days?  I know you are!  Find some blogs and podcasts (and even better, write and create your own and share!), connect with other educators on social media, find some local events to attend, and every now and then, pony up some cash and go to a big event outside of your area, or see if your school or district will pay to send you to something; the worst that can happen, if you ask, is that they say no!

Image courtesy of
In closing, while I was writing this post, I was listening to 7Seconds' Leave a Light On album, positive hardcore punk from Reno, Nevada, the city in which I live (and a group that my podcast partner, Ben, used to see frequently and even play with occasionally when he was playing in punk bands).  The third track on the album is a song called "Slogan On A Shirt" and it really spoke to me while I was getting these thoughts down.  The lyrics that really jumped are as follows:

We've got our PMA (positive mental attitude)
We gotta spread this sh** around
And make it more than just a slogan on a shirt

Simply put, wake up each day, find something good, share it with the world, and own it; don't just let it be words.  

Until next time...