An Open Letter to “Sit and Get” PD

Paper letter with "The End" written on it, with a broken paper heart next to it
My old friend — When I first started teaching, it was always you holding my hand. You were there for my first conference. Since the beginning, you've set my expectations for what professional development should be like. This may be difficult to hear, but it's time for our relationship to end.
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Let me be perfectly clear: It’s not me. It’s you.

My old friend —

When I first started teaching, it was always you holding my hand and trying to help me grow stronger. You were there for my first conference, where I geeked out with other educators and left so inspired to take my pedagogy to the next level.

You were there when I hosted my training event for teachers at my school. You taught me your ways, and I did exactly as you said. I made a PowerPoint presentation, memorized each word, and even prepared a few questions to stimulate discussion at the end.

Since the beginning, you’ve set my expectations for what professional development should be like.

This may be difficult to hear, but it’s time for our relationship to end.

This just isn’t working for me. I’m not getting enough out of it anymore.

The hard truth is:

Your methods don’t work well for helping students master concepts, so why should I have any reason to believe that they work for me?

I’ve learned enough about pedagogy to know what I need, and it’s not getting lectured at for 30-minutes in a packed conference room.

Honestly, you should know better. You spend all this time lecturing at me about how to be a good teacher, but you don’t even practice what you preach! When it comes to teaching me, you operate on a different set of values.

The hypocrisy!

But we’ve had this argument before, haven’t we? I’ve been pushing back for years, but still, you remain the same. Rather than rehashing this conversation, I’m moving forward with my life, without you.

I’m holding myself and my fellow educators to a higher standard.

It’s not easy.

But still, we owe it to ourselves and each other to demand better professional learning opportunities. As experts in the art of teaching, we should not settle for less when it comes to our own education.

We must practice what we preach.

I wasn’t going to mention this, but I suppose you should know:

A new approach has stolen my heart.

It all started last year when I flew down to Texas to attend one of Heather Staker’s Blended Learning Live! events. What I experienced there changed my perspective on professional learning. That’s when I first began to realize that your way is not the only way.

You see, even though Heather’s an expert in blended learning, she recognizes that teachers are experts, too. They’re experts in their schools, curricula and students. They know what’s going on in their building better than she ever could.

So she leverages their expertise and empowers them. She offers them a common vocabulary, a toolkit, a few ideas and suggestions. But ultimately, she lets them go through the creative process of figuring out the logistics of how to implement this pedagogy in their classrooms.

Here’s what really astounded me:

Even the attention and energy in the room felt different.

Rather than just consuming information, we each took on a role of active creation. All around the room, different groups were working together on creating solutions for their school district. While Heather served as a facilitator, everyone else in the class worked at their own pace, working in groups or on their own devices.

That’s when I realized:

This is what a successful blended classroom looks like! This was part of the lesson!

By experiencing what it felt like to be a blended learning student, I gained deeper insight into how to craft this experience for my students.

Sometimes, the medium is the message.

I guess it all goes back to that adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

But instead it’s something like this:

Give someone a lecture on pedagogy, and you teach them for a day. Show someone what it feels like to experience this pedagogy as a student, and you teach them for a lifetime.

Sure, it’s not quite as concise as the original proverb, but you get the point.

Anyway, I’m not trying to make you feel jealous here. But now that I know what it feels like to be engaged and empowered in my professional learning, I won’t settle for less.

I’m sorry, but we’re over.

Now, I have the wonderful opportunity as a professional learning coach at Michigan Virtual to host sessions of Blended Learning Live! with my team. We do our best to live by Heather’s philosophy and simulate the same energy and productivity for our classes.

I’ve already seen some educators create some innovative solutions to problems that their school district faces every day. I’ve seen them revolutionize outdated systems to increase student success. I’ve seen them think outside the box and work together in incredibly powerful ways.

It humbles me every time. It makes all the effort and intentionality worthwhile.

And that’s why I can’t go back.

Erin Luckhardt

Erin Luckhardt

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