Saturday, October 15, 2011

Are You too Tired for PD?

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It's professional development weekend in Florida! Are you learning with colleagues? I know many teachers that are not. They are taking a 3-day weekend instead of going to a conference or working at school or using the time to collaborate. That doesn't mean they're not working. Who doesn't take home lesson plans? Who doesn't carry the ubiquitous pile of papers to grade? Who doesn't read for school?

Teachers are suffering this year at my school. Many are demoralized by continuing demands. With the new teacher evaluation program in Florida we're grappling with big concepts (learning goals, formative assessments and value added models). We're frustrated by time thieves who steal instructional time away from real teaching. We're bullied by the press and the freight train pace of the 7 period.

I'm taking a time out this weekend. I'm attending and presenting at the Florida Council of Teachers of English. Sometimes professional development seems like that one more thing--the last straw of obligations in a teachers too busy life. It's not. It's life-giving. It's renewing. It's a moment out of the battle ground many schools have become. As Jimmy Santiago Baca said Friday, it's a gathering of teacher warriors at the hearth. A place for us to lay down our armor, set our weapons outside the gate and be refreshed and recharged by each others' stories.

 Alan Sitomer opened the conference with a rousing keynote Thursday night. I've heard Sitomer speak many times, but never has he sounded as authentic and impassioned as he did Thursday night. He talked about grit and how we Americans admire it. We admire it when we see people dig in and not give up. Whether it's weight loss (He shared a story about student, Edgar Ortiz who lost at least 100 pounds.) or overcoming life's trials. He railed against politicians and the freight train of the Common Core that's about to take us over. He encouraged us to not give up. To turn our faces toward the sun of optimism. He said that over and over, people that don't succeed give up just before success is to be had. We are on the cusp of a great change in education. Have hope, continue the good fight and the incredible work of teaching. "Do this job as if it is your life's work," he said.

Teaching IS my life's work. My students need me. That is why I often stay after school to give kids access to computers and my help. That's why I participate in school events. Students  are why I write and continue learning. My kids are counting on me. I bet yours are counting on you too. Don't give up.

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