Snakes and ladders for newcomers
Continuing professional development; this year I have been saturated with the stuff. If ever there is a loaded term in school, it is CPD - both barrels locked and loaded leading many an apr s-CPD discussion to resemble a Western-style shoot out between those who find worth in what was said and those who, well, don't.
As a probationer, I have found the year really productive in terms of CPD. As well as within the school, Dumfries and Galloway Council provides monthly events to meet the requirements for the standard for full registration as outlined by the General Teaching Council for Scotland. The sessions have been varied and, on the whole, thoroughly positive and helpful experiences.
We started the CPD year with sessions on assertive discipline and classroom management that were thoroughly worthwhile and richly informative. I can truthfully say I have implemented a lot of what we were taught in my teaching and can still remember what was said.
This is because both sessions provided tangible teaching strategies and ideas that made sense and were relevant to our needs as newly starting teachers. They could be transferred into our teaching practice - rather more than a lot of the educational theory that we received in CPD lectures at university. The Piagets and Vygotskys may be interesting but they offer little direct use in the classroom when your third year drama queen decides to make her debut by theatrically stomping out of class.
I have, however, completely forgotten some of the training we had, which is, sadly, indicative of how much I have used the information. Some CPD days, it has to be said, have been less useful than others and the probationers are starting to match the longer serving teachers in their absolute insistence on time and money being well spent for development.
A friend recently implied that teachers are one of the toughest crowds to please and having attended CPD events in the authority with the school, I have to agree. Glossy, gimmick-ridden theatrics for serious development days do not impress classroom practitioners. If they are being distracted from that pile of marking, it had better be worthwhile.
Teachers are acutely aware of the value of time. If there is any hint that this commodity is being wasted, then an onslaught of heckling or subversive murmurings can commence.
A lot of the cynicism around CPD seems to stem from a lack of direct personal choice. CPD is essential but it is difficult to develop personal needs under imposed development agendas which are often either too general or too subject-specific to cater for individuals. It is no bad thing to have the kind of professional integrity that wants to make everything you do matter.
Any teaching practitioner with an ounce of care for the job and for the young people they are teaching will undergo development every time they give a less than perfect lesson, research new teaching strategies and materials or observe and share good practice. There is a place for formal en masse development but the musts are to make it relevant and stop it turning into continuing professional digression.
Nicola Clark is a probationer English teacher at Lockerbie Academy