Dealing With PD Overwhelm

I had the pleasure today of working with a group of vice principals from around my district.  As a team of Instructional Technology Resource Teachers, we were tasked with showcasing some new apps and tech tools that might be useful in the role of a VP.  We decided to use the format of “speed-geeking” to give the VPs lots of exposure to different tools.  If you’re not already familiar with the concept of speed-geeking, it works just the same as speed-dating, except instead of being introduced to a variety of people, you are introduced to a variety of different tech tools – hopefully one catches your interest for further exploration.

With 5 separate themed stations, and a variety of apps/tools at each station, the VPs were exposed to at least 10 tools that could potentially be useful to them.  Overall the session was a lot of fun, and there was great feedback from the VPs.  However, I could tell that a number of the participants were feeling a little overwhelmed with being introduced to so many new tools in such a short period of time.

I can totally understand their sense of overwhelm – the feeling that this “thing” I’ve shown them is something they should be using, but don’t have the time, or energy, or maybe even interest to learn it thoroughly.  I remember having similar feelings after professional development early in my career.  Though I enjoyed PD, it often gave me a sense of anxiety or urgency about the need to implement something new, as soon as possible.  I could often feel that I was never doing enough.

As I grew as an educator, I came to realize a few things about professional learning:

  1. There is NEVER enough time, energy, and interest to learn and integrate all of the strategies, tools, and systems available.
  2. As a passionate, committed, self-directed learner, I am permitted to make choices about what I give “head-space” to.

To the first point:  Whether it’s literacy, numeracy, differentiation, assessment, classroom community, integration of technology, cooperative learning, inquiry learning, meta-cognition, effective feedback, or a million other avenues for professional growth, there are simply too many areas for any one person to be an expert on all of it.  There is peace in accepting this fact, and by extension, being thoughtful and intentional about the places where you do invest your time, energy, and interest.  Time, energy, and interest are precious resources, and it is a mistake to dilute their potential impact by trying to learn everything.

To the second point:  Professional development is a deeply personal journey.  As such, I now give myself full permission to attend a PD session and walk out saying, “that was amazing and I can definitely see how it will improve student learning … but i’m not going to do anything about it (at least, not now).”  This statement does not come from a place of laziness or apathy; instead it comes from an honest admission that I am on a professional journey which, for the time being, is moving me down a different path.  I know that I am a hard working educator, and that I am continually trying to improve my knowledge and skills.  This gives me the freedom to embrace some things, and ignore other things, even if the things I am choosing to ignore are wonderful.  The fact is, I am simply choosing to do other wonderful things.

The way I now see it, professional learning is always supposed to be enjoyable/invigorating/gratifying — If it’s not, you’re not thinking about it quite right.

 

Photo Credit:  Andrés Þór