Is there a thing as too much professional development?
Be prepared for an excessive number of comparisons to professional development.
- If a comedian only told one series of jokes, the audience would stop laughing and stop paying attention.
- If an athlete whose main objective is to score deciding that they should stop after mastering a single effective offensive play, their opponents would quickly learn the defense and prevent future goals.
- If a chef stopped experimenting after developing a couple great recipes, they could initially get people in the door of a restaurant, but would people want to keep returning?
- If a dentist only relied on the technology that existed when they went through school, patients would be even more terrified to go to the dentist. I’ve seen antique medical tools that could have been torture devices at the National Civil War Museum.
- If a band only wrote one album of songs, they would risk not connecting with future generations. One hit wonders have a shelf life of relevancy of only a year* (not scientific data, just middle school environment observation).
As I write these statements, I laugh at the ridiculous tone. However, I was politely informed that I go to too many conferences. I’ve let this sink in for a week. I cannot stop learning. I ask for district support to go to two conferences. One held annually in our town during the winter and one held in the summer nationally (which I pay my own travel to). I do reserve learning for paid opportunities. I average plural unconferences a year (which are free by nature). Last year I went to unconferences in Harrisburg, MetroDC, Philadelphia, and San Antonio. In a two month span this year I have attended an EdCamp in Seacoast New Hampshire, helped plan one in Harrisburg, and plan on attending EdCamp Hill next weekend. I also participate in weekly Twitter chats, sometimes with more consistency then others. I learn so much from #edtechchat and #BYOTchat; I also randomly join conversations when attracted by shiny new #hash tags. Twitter has great resources, but it is impersonal learning. The inspiration from meeting the people in real life is so strong.
So is there a thing as too much professional development? Do comedians stop developing new materials to entertain? Are there too many drills for a sports team? Are there too many recipes for a chef to try? Do dentists use tools of torture because they do not want to modernize? Do bands settle for a providing the world with a single message in a single song? No.
All those scenarios connect with teaching. I constantly work to develop new material. My end goal is to teach and not entertain, but it is a bonus if they laugh and enjoy it. Teachers have to continuously practice our craft so it looks effortless, like watching a football player catch the impossible pass with ease or a soccer player scoring from outside the box. Teachers have to mix the ever changing classroom elements to make the most successful lessons. What works amazing one day might not work another day, or even another period that day. We can not rely on one or two lesson recipes to sustain our teaching. My 6th graders might claim that education is torture, but at least we do not cause physical harm with the technology. I can not believe how fast the technology changes. When I was in college during the early 2000s, PowerPoint and Interactive Whiteboards were on the forefront of innovation. Teachers can not stop at one lesson. Teachers are not one hit wonders. We are life changers.
But we need someone to change our life by believing in us. We need high expectations that we can rise to. We need to feel valued and supported when we decide to pursue professional development outside the normal school day. This can be accomplished through supporting graduate classes, conferences, and tools for the classroom (as long as it is a tool we are comfortable with). So the answer is no; there is no such thing as too much professional development, unless you want to say someone is too dedicated to the profession.