Friday, January 22, 2016

Should We Ban Teacher Training?

Every time I hear someone talk about having a "teacher training" I cringe just a little. For some reason, it makes me think of our dog Max. He can do all sorts of tricks. Sit. Spin. Beg. Rollover. He's a smart dog. He's been trained to do his routine on command, and he's a quick learner. As much as I like Max, I don't want to associate his tricks with the development of professional educators.

I realize no one intends to relate "teacher training" to training a pet, even if the word training doesn't seem to entirely fit with the complexities of professional learning. I guess for me the word carries some baggage, some negative connotations. 

Google defines training as follows:

It's kind of funny that the example provided is "in-service training for staff." That sounds like some of the worst professional development I've ever experienced.

The problem with training is it often refers to the one-size-fits-all, sit and get professional development that is known to be highly ineffective. It doesn't allow for individual differences. It makes teaching a set of rules or procedures intended to guarantee a certain outcome.

But that's not how it works. Teaching is a more of an art than a science in my book. What works for one teacher rarely works exactly the same for another. 

The things that we learn in teacher training are rarely ever of enduring value. It's usually one new program or another. It won't be relevant in 10 years, or it's the latest fad but has very little personal meaning. Everyone is expected to benefit from it the same.

So instead of teacher training, let's promote teacher learning, development, growth, networking, and collaboration. Authentic learning and reflection allows teachers to take what they learn and make it their own. Successful teachers don't simply implement what they've been trained to do. They make complex decisions based on accumulated expertise and professional autonomy.

I'm not calling for a ban on professional development. Let's just end the bad PD. Sometimes it's referred to as teacher training.

Question: Does teacher training have a bad connotation for you? What do you want out of your professional learning? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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