verb. to design and implement powerful learning opportunities for an individual or group.
For a good long while I’ve feared that the education system in this country is inadvertently disempowering its teachers. I felt this before it even occurred to me to become a teacher; my own children were plodding their way through public schools. I was a young mother volunteering in their classrooms, dismayed by the almost scripted, and sometimes soulless nature of the teaching I witnessed. It was the height of the NCLB era. The reality of the mandate was coming into its own; schools were entering their second, then third years in Program Improvement. What that meant for curricula was dismal. As my children moved up in grade level, their interest in real learning became less and less.
The mandate to teach a narrow curriculum was not condoned by the teachers. But it was their job to carry it out.
We have moved on from that era. We've discovered what it does to a child’s curiosity, how quickly it obstructs their innate desire to discover the world. But we are still mired in the sad aftermath of our collective misdirection. We have the pervasive idea still lodged in our heads that teachers are not the ones who know how to teach; other, more professional and learned individuals are. We’ve somehow agreed that those other individuals will be tasked with designing our days, designing the ins and outs of our curricula. We complain that there’s not yet a textbook for the newest standards in our discipline, not yet a set of course material for the teaching we are expected to enact. Where has our agency as teachers gone? Why are we now so dependent on what others produce?
Professional development in the coming years should help teachers rediscover their own power to create, should enable them to break through the flawed notion that their teaching is confined by the products of the ever profitable market place. It should help dispel their notion that what we teach is determined by the efforts of those who do not know our students, who do not know our communities. 21st century PD should empower the teacher to take back the job of teaching.