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Friday, October 30, 2009

Where Professional Development IS an Inside Job

I agree wholeheartedly with Anthony Cody. Professional development should be an inside job. Within the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS)it is.

Mr. Cody details the advantages to using local teachers to conduct professional development instead of outsiders.

1.The local has credibility. The participants know the presenter has actually taught and understands the challenges they face in their local context.
2.The local is available after the presentation to be an ongoing resource.
3.The local's expertise is recognized and affirmed, as opposed to being ignored.

Outside consultants should be brought in only when their particular knowledge is essential and lacking within the system. And these consultants should seek to collaborate with local teacher leaders so they can connect with existing practices and expertise. Their goal should be to invite the growth of local knowledge and skills so that teachers can lead the work as it develops going forward.

In most cases, however, local teachers should be considered the first and best choice for professional development within a district. If they are not experienced in leading their colleagues, they should receive support and training in this arena. The assumption that “outsiders always know best” should be replaced with the assumption that our teachers are the greatest experts we have available day-in and day-out in teaching our students. Developing their leadership is our best chance to drive sustained improvement in our schools.

I will add one more advantage to using locals for professional development. They are a lot cheaper.

When I was the local presenter, I did it for free---in the sense I was already being paid for the time, just like my audience was being paid to participate.

When I was the outsider, the district paid me transportation, hotel, and presentation fee. One workshop can easily cost a district $1000.

Your district can make it an inside job too. Teachers who would like to present should submit a presentation proposal to the district office. Even better than proposals trickling in one-by-one, a group of teachers in a school could create a package proposal. The only drawback is that some districts have already signed agreements with outside contractors. At least that is how my local district responded to my insider proposal.

But once those contracts expire, districts would be unlikely to renew once they realize the potential right at home, IF they have a sheaf of local proposals in hand. If just one or two teachers submit proposals, the district is likely to renew the outsider's contract. So teachers, get it together, and propose professional development truly relevant to your teaching circumstances. Go for it.

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