It’s that time of year for me ….. tidying up loose ends and making sure all my records are in order. I’ve been busy updating the list of PDs I’ve attended over the last couple of years, checking that I’ve got course titles and descriptions properly documented. It’s one of those jobs I’d meant to stay on top of along the way ….. but ….. well ….. you know how it goes ….. the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow syndrome’ stepped in rather heavily, the requirements for documentation got tightened up and I’ve now been running round in circles trying very hard to locate the bits and pieces of paper to corroborate my attendance at numerous presentations and conferences over the last few years – all in an effort to ensure that I don’t go into a panic meltdown should I be asked to produce evidence of attendance!
Don’t get me wrong though. I actually believe quite strongly that all professionals need to constantly upgrade their qualifications. Requirements introduced by the VIT – the Victorian Institute of Teaching – the professional standards authority with which I must maintain current teaching registration if I am to retain my employability as a teacher in the State of Victoria – stipulate that I must complete a minimum of 100 hours of professional learning over a five year period – a very fair and reasonable requirement which should ensure that I stay in touch with current trends and developments in education.
It’s been an enlightening process though. As I’ve trawled through program outlines, reams of handouts distributed and notes and reflections jotted on the day or soon after, I’ve found myself reflecting on the nature of sessions attended. Some of the courses, presentations and day long conferences are very memorable. Either the content or the presenter spring to mind as I skim through my notes. But, it is quite striking that I also recollect conversations had with colleagues that run something like this:
Wasn’t the day really special! The speaker was great ….. the ideas were really powerful. But ….. I wonder if school practice will change as a result of today?
Sometimes there would be a variation of staff chatter over lunch or coffee breaks that ran something like this:
Wow! That was fantastic! It’s great to be able to spend the day focusing on x, y and z ….. but who has the time to put any of this into practice? There’s no time to think, plan or vary what we do, so what was the value of the day’s program to me or to us as a staff?
It was a few months ago that I mentioned in a blog post about PLNs the shock I felt reading Peter Kent’s post “Want to be a great teacher? Don’t go to PD”. This blog made me question, probably for the first time, whether the many hours I’d spent at PDs had been a total waste of both time and money. Back then, I rationalized that attendance at those PDs had been part of my life’s journey and as such were of value.
Now though, as I go through the process of pulling together documentation and revisiting PDs attended, I find myself reflecting on whether and how my teaching practice and knowledge has altered, changed or grown. It has indeed been a startling discovery – one that has made me really question the nature of our professional learning.
While I’ve attended many outstanding presentations over the last few years, ones that have made me stop and think deeply about issues, it is without doubt that my professional knowledge and growth took a dramatic 180 degree turn by participation and completion of the 12 week online VicPLN program run by SLAV in conjunction with SLV.
What has been the difference between the VicPLN and other PDs attended? Apart from being an active learner, one who learned by doing rather than passively sitting back and having the expert tell me how to do it, it has most definitely been the length of the program – long enough to both explore and digest changed practice – as well as constant engagement with others on our joint learning path, those many members of my PLN who have encouraged me to have a go, given me feedback, shared ideas and inspired the exploration of new ideas. My ever growing PLN continues to inspire me long after the formal completion of the course and this inspiration sits within me, ensuring that the more I learn, the more I want to learn, thus joining the ranks of ‘lifelong learners’!