Professional Development Isn't Working: A Vision for the Future of Education

 

The world is changing fast, and education hasn’t caught up. Teachers know schools need more innovation, change-making, and relevance. But HOW?

Michelle Blanchet and Darcy Bakkegard grew tired of everyone telling teachers what to fix without sharing the “how,” so they created easy-to-use professional development tools and strategies to help teachers think like startup entrepreneurs.

Using a visual, interactive format, The Startup Teacher Playbook helps teachers tackle challenges, turn their ideas into action, and tap into their potential to lead change in the classroom, school, and community.

 Our Vision for What Professional Learning Should Be

We decided to write this book to give you—the teacher—a personal coach so you can organize and run PD relevant to your needs, challenges, and opportunities. We wanted to give you a cost-effective, time-efficient way to work on your own professional learning and simultaneously develop your ideas for your classroom and students.

The Startup Teacher Playbook provides the structure and guidance you need to implement your great ideas. It provides an alternative to traditional PD; an alternative you can implement from the comfort of your classroom or home.

Too often, professional learning is reactionary (give a man a fish), when we need professional learning that is visionary (teach a man to fish). Teacher training and PD must match teachers’ needs and nurture their potential.

It must assume that teachers are talented and capable, and allow them to pivot in the face of challenges. The PD content in this book goes beyond grade level and subject area to help you hone what’s relevant for you and your students.

Our dream is to see more teachers in the educational driver’s seat, leading from the classroom (or any other position). Imagine if, instead of spending 10 percent of our time in ineffective PD or meetings, we used that time to get proactive and address what wasn't working in our classrooms or schools, and then collaborate, ideate, and solve problems.

Imagine if we used PD to nurture our skills and keep learning and evolving to stay ahead of the changing times. Or imagine if we spent that time on well-being, ensuring our mental health and preventing burnout. 

It could be that way. After years of working with teachers, these are the three professional learning topics we feel most educators are missing out on and so desperately need to make that dream a reality:

1. Open-ended professional learning: give teachers time to tinker, play, explore, and create.

We talk so much about hands-on, experiential learning for students, but then provide professional learning that is quite the opposite. Instead, we can promote PD time that lets teachers develop their own ideas, think through implementation, collaborate, and problem-solve. It’s unnecessary to always have an agenda.

Providing space for teachers to play and create will ultimately do more to support them as they develop and design their students’ educational journeys.

Subjects like design thinking or change-making do a lot to help teachers nurture the 4 C’s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication).

Providing open-ended PD formats or unstructured time would give educators the opportunity to adapt learning as needed, enabling them to pivot in the face of an ever-changing educational landscape with evolving student needs and behaviors.

2. Leadership for teachers: train all teachers to see themselves as leaders.

Education is a field based on relationships. Leadership is all about building relationships, so why aren’t better leadership strategies in our PD repertoire? Teachers are leaders and can feel confident in their abilities and expertise on working with people.

They can pursue ideas that would improve teaching and learning. By building these strengths in teachers, we can solve many of the challenges holding our students (and our schools) back. In addition, teachers can then seize the reins and organize and facilitate their own workshops, trainings, incubators, and accelerators as they share their expertise with each other.

3. Emotional intelligence for educators: nurturing our social-emotional learning to prevent burnout.

We talk so much about social emotional learning for students, but rarely take time to nurture our emotional intelligence prior to or during teaching. Teaching is a demanding job with a load of emotional baggage. When burnout strikes, we're left maintaining (at best), so innovating gets thrown out the window.

Preventing burnout keeps us fresh and energized so we can continue to try new ideas and address challenges. Moreover, being metacognitive about self-care strategies to maintain our well-being will help us model these skills to our students. 

Rethinking How We "Run" our Classrooms 

As you’ve already gathered, we’re starting a grassroots revolution led by teachers to take back our PD, create the classrooms we crave and kids deserve, and generally do whatever we can from the educational trenches to make teaching and learning better for everyone involved.

And we’re counting on teachers like you to use the tools in this book—tools inspired by the startup world—to develop the skills necessary for this work. 

We don’t promise we can fix education or that we have all the answers. In fact, we don’t know if we have any of the answers! But we know that you do. Through countless workshops with hundreds of teachers crafting solutions to everyday problems, we've seen absolute magic happen.

We’ve seen frustrated teachers rekindle their spark for teaching. We’ve seen teams develop personalized plans for struggling students. We’ve watched teachers make simple but deeply meaningful tweaks to lessons, units, and activities.

And we’ve witnessed thoughtful application and implementation of district mandates.  

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