Professional Development from Your Couch
by Morgan Dixon
“Why are you complaining about your job? You get summers off.” If you’re a teacher, odds are you’ve heard this phrase. Odds also are you had to restrain yourself from unleashing the full power of your rage on that silly, uninformed person.
Teachers spend the months of August through May (at the very earliest) working from 7:00-5:00 or later. They work in a field which is always evolving, adding more and more requirements to their everyday routine; they get barraged with demands from students, parents, and administrators.
The Teacher Perspective
As a teacher myself, I know the reality of “having summers off” is a dream. We spend a large portion of the summer going to professional development. Teachers are required by law to complete training in order to maintain their certificate. Frenship ISD in Lubbock, Texas, for example, instructs teachers to participate in a minimum of 12 hours of PD throughout the summer.
Who really wants to get dressed up and sit in a stuffy room all day? We just spent nine months without the ability to wear jeans! If you’re a woman, that means you haven’t put on makeup for any occasion except church. Your kids haven’t had to go to daycare, saving you lots of money.
But professional development doesn’t have to be a bad thing! It allows teachers the opportunity to learn new techniques; they are able to learn from a group of people from other districts that bring new and innovative lessons. It also allows teachers who have been in the classroom for a while the chance to break out of their comfort zone and discover new techniques.
Online professional development you can do from your couch provides you with the ability to take part in a training from your own home while acquiring benefits your local service center can’t provide.
For me, the best kind of professional development is the kind which easily fits into my busy schedule. On the last day of the school year in 2017, I received an email at 6:00 AM from my principal informing me I had to become Gifted and Talented (GT) certified before August. I already had my summer planned out with training I wanted to attend, vacations and the second job I work to bring in supplemental income. How was I going to fit in 30 hours of training?
Thankfully, I was able to enroll in an online GT training course. The course was three weeks long, BUT I was able to complete it at my own pace. A traditional 30-hour course is typically completed after five, eight hour days in a conference room. I still received the training needed for my certification and could do it in a way that fit my schedule (meaning I was still able to watch those episodes of The Bachelorette that were filling up my DVR).
I love when I’m attending a training and learn something which will be perfect for the unit I teach every November or right before testing season. The problem: I’m in a room that doesn’t contain my planner and I’ll look like I’m checking Facebook if I try to login to my classroom Dropbox account on my phone.
Training from home allows me the opportunity to pause for a second and write it down or call my teaching partners and get their input. I try to dispel the saying “teachers make the worst students” and keep my phone put up when I can during professional development. I don’t have the same restraints at home; I can research how to best apply the training to my specific subject. In the past, I always exclaimed about how it was such a great idea that I would forget by the time August rolled around.
Perhaps the most important aspect of professional development online is it saves teachers money. Conferences are a fantastic way to meet new teachers from across the country. You are able to immerse yourself in teaching techniques and listen to speakers who remind you why you became a teacher in the first place. But they are expensive. Schools are often able to pay some money towards the fee, but that often doesn’t include the $12 hot dog and Coke combo you’re going to be eating for lunch.
A vast array of options for online learning are popping up. It is true that the atmosphere of the conference is missing (unless you’re throwing your own party in your living room), but the appeal of saving money is a strong one. Teachers are already spending an insane amount of their own money decorating their classroom, stocking up on school supplies and purchasing books for their students to read. Professional development doesn’t need to be another financial burden.
As of June 2018, the average Texas teacher salary was $45,000. I know there are several states that are higher, but there are many that have salaries much smaller. Budgets in schools are already stretched thin to accommodate the amount of needs that arise throughout the year and with changes in education laws. As much as your administration wants to help send you to the fancy conferences, it is often not feasible.
I understand your struggles, teachers! Just know we’re all in this together. Online training can create just as much of a community as face-to-face professional development.
About Morgan Dixon
Morgan Dixon is a Reading and English teacher at Frenship Middle School. The 2018-2019 school year will be her sixth year teaching. She currently holds a bachelor’s degree in English Education from Lubbock Christian University and is working to earn her master’s degree in English from Wayland Baptist University.