By Nick McDaniels — Last week, after finishing the school year, but before starting work for the Summer, I was fortunate enough to attend three full days of professional development training. Admittedly, this is the first time that I ever used the words “fortunate” and “professional development” in the same sentence, as P.D.’s are usually known among teachers at best as an easy paycheck and at worst as a profound waste of time. The professional development I attended last week, however, was better — much better. It was so good, in fact, that I didn’t mind spending three full days in the same room, with the same colleagues and the same teacher.
Having taken a class on creating good professional development, I know that good P.D. is like good teaching; it is well-planned, responsive, and a differentiated. But none of that mattered last week. It was good P.D. because the facilitator was amazing.
Ms. T, a teacher for four decades, a master at teaching kids was so full of information and details that every goal of the professional development was fulfilled and everything I was supposed to learn, I did. Still, what I will take away from those three days has little to do with the teaching of English, but more with the love of teaching.
Ms. T. loves teaching children and adults. Her presentation clearly shows that. For three entire days, she modeled incredible teaching strategies that have been honed over the years, but what stood out was the way she talked about her former students and teachers she had mentored. She speaks with exceptional pride about every person she has impacted, but not about her impact upon them, about their achievements. She knows their stories, what they were doing when she taught them, and what they are doing now. Like most P.D. facilitators, she filled her session with stories from her classroom, but unlike most P.D. facilitators she resisted the urge to talk about the things she did inside her classroom, but rather things that her students did.
Leaving the sessions after each day, I could not get over the pride she had in her students and how openly and passionately she talked about them.
As a teacher, I am proud of my students, and I try every day to express that pride to them, but I am guilty of not talking about my pride in them passionately and to others. This kind of pride in students is infectious and can transform schools, and transform public perceptions. And while I might be a better English teacher next year because of this professional development, I will definitely be a better teacher, and quite possibly a better ambassador for our students, because I listened to and was inspired by Ms. T.