If you didn’t need courses every few years to keep your job, would you voluntarily take professional development to learn new trends and techniques in your field?
I have heard answers to the above question from some of our more outgoing students. Most of our students register online and never meet me, which means they don’t know what I look like. This anonymity affords me the advantage of hearing honest, unsolicited feedback in the hallway about teachers being forced to take a course during their free time. Students (adult teachers) will say things to their peers right in front of me:
- Who is the easiest instructor?
- Which class has the least amount of homework?
- When is the earliest I can get my class over with?
Hearing those words about education from teachers is disappointing, but this feedback challenged our department to ensure our courses are more than a dreaded requirement. For instance, many area teachers need a series of reading courses to meet No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.
The logic behind NCLB is that better reading skills are needed for student success in every subject area. Sounds reasonable, right? We offer the above courses and instill in our faculty to make the assignments pertinent to something teachers can use in their classrooms rather than having them do a research paper on something like the earliest principles of reading. We do our best to include variety and convenience in our courses for teachers to walk away with how the techniques will help them rather than remembering that they had to take the course. Fundamentally, we serve teachers and the students they teach; if you can think of a course teachers need that we don’t offer, please tell me.
If a required course provided you tools and resources that you could use the next day in your classroom, would that increase your interest in taking that professional development without being required to take it? That’s what we hope for in our courses. If you had some input when the requirements were created, if you or your colleagues were included in the conversation to determine which courses were required, would you be more interested in taking courses in your free time?
Whether or not professional development should be voluntary, a topic for another day is to determine who should be included in the decision-making process when it comes time to decide which courses should be required for teachers. Principals? Teachers? Unions? County certification offices? Politicians? After watching political debates the last few years, I’m starting to think courses and testing should be required for elected officials. Just as teachers take the Praxis I and II tests, perhaps politicians should be required to take a test before they can put their name on the ballot. How many of our elected officials do you think would pass the U.S. Citizenship test?