I love PA days. LOOOOVE them. They’re great opportunities to bring staff together and improve as a team on our collective teaching practices. Currently, these days are spread out throughout the year. For example, this year at the Toronto District School Board we had a PA day in September, November, January (elementary only), one in February, and we’ll have one in April and some in June. Although PA days provide time for teachers to learn, I find that a one-day session is often not enough to adequately explore a topic to the level of understanding and comfort that many teachers need to implement with confidence. Back in October, I attended a PD session that discussed, amongst other things, anti-colonialism in classroom practices and its effects on racialized students – try internalizing that in an hour. In many instances, I have left sessions with a general understanding of the goals, but also with lingering questions and uncertainty that prevent me from taking next steps. Sometimes, I think that if I had just another day to ask questions, plan and try something and get feedback, I’d feel a lot better and then give it the old college try in my classroom.
So, how could we extend a professional learning session beyond a single day so that the momentum can grow and exploration can go even deeper? Let’s string together some of those sporadic PA days into one “PA week.”
This is what I propose: take the first week of November and put five PA days together into a week of pure, unadulterated professional learning – kinda like training camp in baseball or football. A full week would allow teachers to explore new ideas in depth. Like, really in depth. Learning how to use a new technology? You could be introduced to it on Day 1, get really into it on Days 2 and 3, show it off to your peers on Day 4, and fix it up on Day 5 so you got it down pat and ready to showcase it to your students. Or, you can spend two or three days on two different ideas. Or have a bonanza of a first day, like TDSB Google Camp, and then structure the rest of the week to go deeper into something that inspired you – you get the picture. The idea is that there is a sustained amount of time for teachers to learn something well enough to actually give it a shot. Most teachers will say that time is the major barrier to learning something new. Well, here it is. Also, the students get another March Break, but in November. That means another chance for families to go on vacation and enjoy time together, or students can attend a fall camp (businesses will definitely create week-long programs in response to an “Autumn Break”), or at the very least there’s a solid week at home playing NBA2K16. In any case, it’s a win-win for teachers and students.
To improve education means to invest in teacher education. Let’s provide teachers with the time they need to immerse themselves in professional development so that real and substantive change can happen.
What are you thoughts? Think a PA week could work? Leave me a comment!