The idea of CPD (continuing professional development) can be a contentious one, in that every teacher needs to be continually developing, seeking to be better, while the restrictions of the school budget can mean that this is piecemeal, if it is seen only in the context of time at courses, off site, led by an expert in a field. This approach can be costly, with course costs, supply cover and some disruption to the classes being left behind.
A long time ago, when I qualified, all courses were run at our local teacher’s centre, as twilight offerings, usually led by a local teacher over a six week timescale, to a theme, which enabled reflection in between, trial in class and reportage and professional discussion, which was particularly valuable where for some this had meant success, while others found disaster. Context and background preparation was shown to be a significant factor.
If you were lucky, you got to go on a “Gurney Dixon”. This meant an overnight stay at the authority residential centre, for a two day course. These were special and often ran at weekends, so that working weeks became endless, even if you were one of the chosen ones. However, it also meant, on at least three occasions, sleeping in a single room where the caretaker had stored the toilet rolls and the shared bathroom facilities often left much to be desired. The quality professional discussion was often developed over a drink at a local hostelry, sharing classroom notes, away from the bustle of school life.
Lesson 1 CPD; talk with your colleagues; they have expertise and insights to share.
Working in an open plan school for four years, enabled much informal CPD, as a head round the curtain, a chat on the way to and from the staffroom, sitting on a table before or after school, chatting over activities, displays, specialist subjects, enabled a drip feed of ideas to be developed. Copying was allowed. Equally, where issues in a year group might be causing some concern, to be able to pop next door, to the year above or below, allowed discussion of what could be tried to remedy or accelerate the children with appropriate tasking.
Lesson 2 CPD; link with an ITE institution, take students and see having them as mentoring training and personal development across a wide perspective.
Having a student teacher, on an extended practice, ensures that the teacher, acting as mentor, has to unpick all aspects of their professional practice to engage fully with the student needs. It can also be the case that watching a student teacher prompts reflection on the part of the mentor. It certainly enables reflection on the class needs, as the mentor can spend time observing their learning approaches and work closely with specific individuals. This working closely can provide the basis for a more analytical approach than is often available, so deepens the teacher understanding and refines the T&L approach taken.
A good relationship with an ITE institution can result in a constant stream of good quality students, who provide additional personnel, and, once established as the class teacher, can enable cross-school release, for colleagues to observe each other, with mentors acting as cover.
Lesson 3 CPD; take advantage of local offerings, twilight or (occasional) Saturdays. Build up a personal network of colleagues.
Newly organised, teachmeets can be a way to take part in free CPD opportunities. They are twilights, usually have some refreshments and are a good way to meet colleagues from other schools. It’s a chance to get away early, with a purpose. Ideas are shared, which can be taken away, stored and use when needed.
In addition, there is now a range of Saturday gatherings, some free, others at a cost, that support teacher sharing at a deeper level, with colleagues sharing their specialist areas. Examples are Teaching and Learning Takeover, ResearchEd, Northern Rocks.
Lesson 4 CPD; Blog, keep a weblog of your ideas, share them online, through social media like Twitter. Online conversations are fast becoming an outlet for professional discussion, sharing extended ideas with blogs, enabling feedback comments, which in turn enable further reflection.
Lesson 5 CPD; personal development takes time.
It is not something that happens on one day. Teaching is a reflective profession. Ideas are the bread and butter of teaching and learning. Working in collaboration, with internal colleagues or from another school, clarifies thinking and refines personal practice.
Lesson 6 CPD; do some extended study at Post Grad level.
Many institutions now support in-school research/investigation as the means to gaining credits, so that in-house development can also be linked with personal CPD. That can be the quid pro quo; you run the improvement, write it up, for school and uni and gain credit, both for school improvement and as a qualification. Both are very useful for the CV and promotion.
Lesson 7 CPD; it’s about you. Take charge, organise, join in discussions, lead idea development. Be proactive; CPD is you developing yourself, not (just) something that someone does to you. It is embedded in the teacher standards; no 8, professionalism.