What keeps me awake at night - Development days are a massive waste of time

16th August 2013 at 01:00

As the new academic year approaches, the time when we will be hauled back from our holidays and thrust into school early in order to attend "professional development" days draws nearer. At the schools I have worked in, it seems to be mandatory to bring all your staff in one week before term starts, although the dates have been getting earlier and earlier.

Managers enjoy creating these professional development days, not just to curtail teachers' holidays or to appease parental and governmental concerns but also, I think, because it is an exercise in control.

It would be acceptable if these days were in any way useful but, as with so much professional development, they rarely have any relevance. Most schools throw up a programme of empty seminars that no one asked for, with titles such as "Digital literacy", "The benefits of the tablet technology" or "What careers will there be tomorrow?" (Spot a trend here?)

We are fortunate at my school to have guest speakers at least, and are also lucky that our management attempts the pretence of being touchy-feely about our concerns, asking teachers via a questionnaire how effective they felt the professional development days were, what could be improved in general and what we felt about the invited speaker's performance. Unfortunately, however, the days are still usually drawn out and pointless.

Our most recent keynote speaker spoke monotonously about "learners of the future" and showed us endless videos in a useless attempt to back-up his self-born notions of what students will be like in the future and what careers they will have. We were even subjected to a ridiculous "humour" video, which was meant to help us think altruistically.

After these speakers there is usually a departmental session, in which the department head is supposed to inspire us with relevant information, ideas and research. Of course, they never have time to arrange anything meaningful. Hence, we just end up doing planning.

It's all a massive waste of time and ends up badly affecting morale before we have even started the school year. The summer holidays are meant to recharge enthusiasm, not bleed it out of us before a child has even stepped through the school gate.

The writer is a teacher at an international school in Switzerland.

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