Thursday, February 2, 2012

It's All About the Training. . .

As a classroom teacher up until a few months ago, I was always split on my opinion of professional development.  I had loved some teacher training sessions, and endured others while gritting my teeth and watching the clock travel ever so slowly.  So, it was with somewhat bated breath that I ran my first training session this past Monday. 

One of the large parts of what I do in my new job is assisting other teachers with the use of our K-6 inquiry-based science program, SCIENCE 21.  I almost always attend the trainings, but never run them (we have consultants who have taught the curriculum or helped develop it in the past).  So, even when I attend as “director,” I’m truly attending as “learner.”  This training was different, however.  As the Regional Science Coordinator here, I, along with another colleague was training a group of twenty teachers on the administration and “grading” of New York State’s Elementary-Level Science Test (ELST).

The ELST requires a decent amount of setup so we began by unpacking a number of boxes filled with equipment.  I had done this before at the 8th grade level, but this was my first time setting up the 4th grade test. 

This is an example of a PD session that folks attend because they have to, not because they want to.  That can be a major issue for presenters at these types of sessions as adults can be even harder to engage than children.  In fact, most participants don’t arrive excited, or particularly engaged.  So it falls on the presenters to work uphill from the start.  Happily, my co-presenter and I made a great team.  His experience in leading this type of training and my science content knowledge and recent classroom experience meshed quite well, and I was pleased to see the positive feedback we received on our evaluation forms.  Discussion about grading methods was good, and teachers enjoyed taking the test and rating various student responses.

This session taught me quite a bit.  First, the years I have under my belt as a middle school educator have prepared me quite well to present in any given situation.  It should be a requirement that anyone entering a “public-speaking” profession spend a year or two teaching first (an “unlikely-to-occur requirement,” but an important one, nonetheless).  Second, just like with students, an interesting topic can be made dull and a “requirement” made intriguing simply by the way it is presented.  Finally, this type of work will need to be a part of my position moving forward.  As I’ve been out of the classroom for a few months, I’ve realized how much I miss teaching.  I love my position and with some training/teaching built in, believe that I’ll be as professionally fulfilled as I can imagine.  Building more training into my schedule should be something I can arrange quite effectively once I get a few more months under my belt.

I’m happy to report that my transition from teaching young adults to teaching “less young” adults was quite positive and I’m excited to do even more of this work in the future.  After one session, I’m already starting to see a number of similarities and differences between teaching these varied age groups.  I’m excited to report more on this as I gain more experience working with adults.