Better PD (for introverts, too)

You’re up early on a Saturday. No teacher clothes, today, though. Jeans, baby!

The night before, your spouse said, “you’ve got that teacher camp thing tomorrow, right?”  

You’re a dedicated teacher, doing out-of-school PD. And whether it’s the weekend or a district-given school day, your time is valuable. So is mine. So I’m writing this post at 5:43 AM on the Monday morning after attending nErDcampNJ 2017 because Better PD involves a strategy. 

nerdcamp-matt-jerry

Matt Morone and yours truly discussing assessment in the high school ELA classroom at nErDcampNJ 2017 in Chatham, NJ.

[The headline says “for introverts.” I’m not sure about my personality assignment, but crowds exhaust me.  Not anxiety, but need-a-nap. These tips are for those who feel the same.]

What follows are reminders and realizations with some preferences too.

Prepare, preview, and plan. Review the session list, research the topics, Google the speakers, and plan out your day. This avoids time wasted.

Go for depth over breadth. This is a personal preference. I like to choose 1-2 topics of interest or urgency for my teaching and focus my time around those topics. This makes it more likely that I’ll find something useful to use in my classroom after the session.

After my first NCTE in Boston 2013, I got excited by seven different topics and came home with a stack of professional books from the Heinemann tent. Trying it all in the classroom was fun and exciting, but it also was unfocused and distracting. Now, I’d prefer to go deep on a few things that are useful right now.

Introduce yourself first.  Often, there are teachers at an event who I may recognize from the Internet but have never met in person. This is weird. Acknowledging this weirdness and still introducing myself with a handshake melts the weirdness. There are built-in conversation starters to use: what sessions are you attending? Where do you teach? How did you find out about today?  Many people are uncomfortable around large crowds, especially when alone. Introducing yourself to someone could make their day.

Sit somewhere random during breaks. The peak of social anxiety for a large PD event can be breakfast, lunch, or happy hour. Again, this is where introducing yourself to someone can improve the day. Further, begin a conversation with one person, then bring in a third person.  You might say, Hey, person X, this is person Y, I’m Jerry. We were talking about…

Speaking of breaks, take them. Even during a morning event, my brain absorbs more if I take a 20-30 minute break every 90 minutes or so. This gets me thinking about the strain of a typical school day for students. No wonder some students struggle to concentrate. Sitting is exhausting.

Bonus: go outside. I wrote the notes that became this post on the front bench of Chatham High School. Our students would benefit from a designated in-between-class break area outside, too. Weather permitting.

Do a brain dump as soon as possible.  We exchange so much information during PD. We lose most of it. Sit with a notebook, even in your car. Do a quick write and list the words, phrases, and ideas that you remember from sessions. Then, do the same about whole day. Here are my notes after nErDcampNJ:

notebook-conference-notes

I write in hieroglyphics for added security.

If you are a teacher-writer, this is more valuable. I wrote a draft of this post in 15 minutes because of my notes.

Use Twitter intentionally. This is difficult. At times, the super-dopamine-highway of Twitter gets me during a conference. So much engagement! Now, I like to listen, take notes, and go on Twitter later to reflect or share a picture. Again, this is a preference. Do what you like to do.

Try to plan follow-up actions. Matt Morone and I hosted a session on Innovative Approaches in the High School ELA Classroom.  Now, we will host #CELChat on June 7. This is a great way to take the discussion at this weekend’s nErDcampNJ and continue it. Plan to meet up with another educator again. Use an idea from a session and email the presenter about it. Read someone’s book and Tweet them about it. It’s good to follow-up.

Read this far? Next, go to the comments. Tell us your routine, hack, or strategy for making the most of PD.

2 thoughts on “Better PD (for introverts, too)

  1. Thanks for this post. It gave me a couple things to think about. This summer, I have a week-long PD for my English classes and then I am a delegate for my local association to the NEA Representative Assembly. I enjoy learning new things for my classroom, or, being reminded of things I had forgotten! But, PD can also be a real drag. I think I’m introverted, too, and similarly, in that I just get worn out by meeting new people and dealing with crowds. I prefer talking to a few people at a time. But, one thing I seriously hate is when presenters make us into “students” in the PD and insist we “think-pair-share”. I like reading, writing, and listening, all while taking notes. I don’t like discussing the lesson with strangers. Maybe this will help me.

    The rep assembly is not really PD the same way but I still learn things and have work to do. Luckily, my wife and friends are going too. So that helps.

    The best thing about the kind of PD i have coming up is that I chose it and that it will likely teach me new things. The worst PD to me is when they train me on things I’m already doing and doing well. If I have one more “close reading and annotation” PD I will scream.

    • Glad you found this useful and thanks for your work with NEA! Interesting that you’d prefer not to think-pair-share during PDs. And, having your wife and friends along for the rep assembly certainly makes it more fun than many typical meetings. Your last point is an important one–a mixture of purpose and choice for teacher PD is important. Thanks for weighing in.

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