440 North Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19130
May 8, 2012
As I have written previously many teachers in Philadelphia are ready and willing to help alleviate financial stress throughout the School District. One particular aspect I focus on is professional development: since teachers are demanded to differentiate our instruction for students, shouldn’t professional development be differentiated for us?
I have attended workshops on using TI calculators, crafting a seven-step lesson plan, engaging youth in discussion-based classes, and more. Yet I am often forced into sessions where I already understand the methods they are describing and my time is unfortunately wasted. Moreover, some of these sessions are run by contracted companies and still do not benefit us as much as they should. This seems like an unfortunate use of money that could be allocated to better programs.
I am a member of a number of teacher support groups, some run by outside organizations and others by teachers themselves, but all focus on one critical message: teachers know what they need to improve their skills. The Math + Science Coalition run by the Philadelphia Education Fund and EdCampPhilly are two examples of opt-in, low-pressure professional development sessions often run by teachers and for teachers.
These models work and run at low cost. If we are facing a $218 million deficit for FY13, why not begin shaving off expenses from outside contracting and maximize use of teacher time by asking us what we need in order to improve. Perhaps we can connect teachers who have certain skills with those who need to develop them and improve our pedagogy while saving money.
It all starts by those in the administration asking one question of us teachers: what do you think you need?
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