Friday, April 17, 2015

Mysterious Days?

Today is a Pro D day in my kids school and I wanted to say to those Educators (my husband included) who are spending the day learning and growing and preparing projects and collaborating on cross-curricular activities..... Thank You.

To the teachers who have been with my son at Outdoor Education since 7am on Monday, returning at 7pm today - I am deeply grateful for your commitment to my son and his education....I recognise it is a sacrifice and is above and well beyond what you have to do but you made the choice to do it....for your students.  (and please bring him back in one piece.Thank you)

The letter below, published a few days ago is eloquent and clear.  

LETTER: A teacher talks Pro-D days
J. WILTSHIRE / TRI-CITIES NOW 
APRIL 9, 2015 12:00 AM

 In a recent column, Keith Baldrey referred to teachers' "mysterious professional development days, which seem to have grown like untended weeds over the years." I feel it is time to correct the many misperceptions about Pro-D days.

First of all, they have not "grown like weeds." For decades, British Columbia's annual school calendar has allowed for six non-instructional days for teachers to update their educational knowledge and skills in order to improve their teaching practice. One of these is a school-wide planning day with administration, and the other five are under the control of teachers.

During my long teaching career, my union has been very strict about how these days could or could not be used. If parents have no idea what happens on the Pro-D days in their school, it is likely because they don't get around to reading school newsletters or visiting the school's website. Most school administrators are very careful to keep parents informed about the use of Pro-D days. There should be nothing mysterious about it.

Very few people realize or acknowledge that these days were added to the school year in 1972, without any additional compensation to teachers. Yes folks, that's right, teachers agreed to lengthen the school year without a commensurate salary increase. The deal was, we'll work these Pro-D days for free if you give us control of the content. There has never been a loss of instructional time for students.

Teachers need to have some professional autonomy in planning these days because the needs are so different from school to school and district to district. A top-down dictatorship of how these days are spent is likely to be heavy on politics and light on accommodating the needs within individual schools. The staff at one school may feel learning about a new math program is paramount, another school may feel that a better understanding of autism is the best use of its time, and a third may want to upgrade technology skills. One size will never fit all when it comes to Pro-D. Mr. Baldrey noted that most Pro-D days occur at the beginning or end of a week. They are also often backed onto other holidays, or occasions such as Halloween.

The timing of Pro-D days has settled into these patterns based on feedback and requests from parents, not the convenience of teachers. Teachers appreciate that there are daycare issues for some parents. After all, most teachers are parents too.

The benefits of having an informed, inspired, updated teaching staff should far outweigh any inconvenience, in the long run. The misperceptions about Pro-D have "grown like untended weeds" over the years.

J. Wiltshire
Port Coquitlam

Here's to thanking our Teachers rather than grumbling about Pro D days!

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