Sunday, October 11, 2009

PDs in the City

Something I didn't anticipate when I was going through the School of Ed was that I would be given the opportunity to go to PDs (professional developments) on a fairly regular basis. I'm not talking about the PD I have every week at our school to talk about our social studies curriculum or school goals; I'm referring to the ones where you leave the building and sometimes the students behind and go to a workshop or event that is designed to make you a better teacher.

I would lump the PDs into two different categories: the workshop and the exhibition. The workshop PDs are those that are intended to give you new strategies and make you a better teacher and which many people attend just to get out of school. Oftentimes they are not that helpful, especially for skeptical teachers who don't really care to improve their practice and do not expend the necessary energy at the PD to learn something new.

There are a few of these that are in fact helpful. I went to a series of PDs last fall put on by Educators for Social Responsibility (ESR)that concentrated on management and were attended by new teachers and their mentors. The woman facilitating the PD was very helpful and actually did help me torelax a bit in the classroom. The PD did hand me some practical management strategies as well. This series was not during the school day, however, but on a series of Saturdays. Those willing to go to PD on Saturday are generally the type that actually want to improve their practice rather than just get away from their students, so the number who came and did absolutely nothing was pretty minimal. It wasn't devine inspiration or anything, and my year was still rough afterward, but I thought it was helpful overall and gave me some moral support when I needed it.

The exhibition PDs can be another story altogether. While also hit or miss helpful, they certainly can be entertaining. In the last year I've attended the Titanic Exhibit, the Bodies Exhibit (with some inhibition, as the source of the bodies is a bit sketchy), and Rock and Roll Hall Fame Annex (twice) among others. The Natural History Museum puts on PDs all the time, as does the Met and other major museums throughout the city. These places want teachers to bring students in and entice them to do it by giving teachers free admission on a given school night as well as instructional materials. Often times- although less often as of late due to budget cuts- these exhibitions are accompanied by wine, cheese, and amazing desserts (my girlfriend swears the best brownies in the world are at the Natural History Museum PDs). All this is quite a perk for being a teacher. While I haven't thought many of the exhibits would be appropriate for me to bring a a class to, it's a nice way to see and enjoy what the city has to offer so at the very least I can relate that information to my students.

This past Thursday I went with a group of teachers to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in SoHo. It's a pretty good museum, but it's pretty expensive if you're paying to get in. We went last February as well and there was tons of wine and cheese and crackers. Walking around listening to Michael Jackson, Patti Smith, and the Clash with a bunch of buzzed teachers can certainly be an educational experience. Honestly I think it would be a pretty good trip for a music class, and has potential for a social studies/civic justice class if that class was taught through the lens of music reflecting major societal issues and ideas.

Today's Wine: The generic red that was served at the Rock and Roll Annex last February. Sadly there were no refreshments this past Thursday, but I shouldn't complain that I wasn't given a free lunch.

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