Whilst I have been away collecting in all of my coursework and writing endless reams of reports, I have still been keeping a keen eye on what my Twitter colleagues are up to. It never ceases to amaze me how other teachers can manage to go on so many courses and conferences, write articles, or speak at a variety of events – and still keep up with their work! I find it absolutely impossible to cope with my normal workload as well as the demands of everday life (laundry on a Sunday, joy) so I must be missing something.
So, are these people doing their job properly? Is it a teacher’s job to turn up every day, follow the syllabus, stick with what they know and teach all of the learning objectives to get the pupils good grades in their exams. Or is it a teacher’s job to attend lots of conferences, miss days worth of lessons and find out what else is going on in the world so that they can do new and wizzy things in the classroom. I think it’s a bit of both, but it’s hard to find the balance with this trade off.
I find professional development courses a bit of a minefield. I have been to some for which the content was truly dire (innovative teaching strategies: “use a powerpoint” – ugh!), for which I could not believe the questions some of the attendees were coming out with (why are you teaching this subject if you are clueless about relational databases), or which were just simply not worth the trade off of missing lessons with my sixth form groups. Equally, I have been to some excellent courses, and my quote from the first CAS conference feedback form is still being used on their promo material! In my opinion, usually the best courses are the ones where the other participants are interesting as the networking opportunities will probably be more valuable than the actual course content, although this is not something you are really able to judge from reading the blurb.
I have a problem with the fact that in order to attend meetings which would be useful for improving and innovating, this effectively involves “double work” for the teacher. You have to spend time planning activities for your classes to do whilst you are away (and this usually means they are not being taught by a specialist, given that most ICT/Computing departments are small), and you are also “working” at the conference/course as well. I dislike going away from school for this reason, and I dislike having to miss lessons at all, especially with A-Level groups. However, I do feel that I am also missing out on a lot of useful opportunities to improve and perhaps to help these students out, by not attending more meetings. Catch 22.