Well, for most of us, back-to-school has come and gone. The new-car smell went out of the classroom right about day 3, most of our snazzy G2 gel pens have gone AWOL, and we’re settling into the trenches for another productive year. Good intentions still abound, even if some of that nervous energy from the first week back has been replaced with good old-fashioned alarm-clock loathing.
So I must be crazy to bring up Professional Development now, right as we get into the stride of the school year, right? Who has time for PD when we’re just figuring out who has lunchroom duty today, answering a dozen parent emails every morning, and scheduling a blue million committee meetings as though we had any time or energy to spare?
Well. I’ve been accused of craziness before, but hear me out: the time for giving a fleeting thought to PD is NOW. Whether you’re a low-teacher-on-the-totem-pole at an underfunded school, or the Grand Poobah of the World Languages Department at a swanky academy, a little bit of professional development can put some wind in your sails when you most need it and give a little boost to your everyday classes. And if you make a little teeny bit of an effort now, you can put things in order so that you can get that much-needed boost later on in the year.
Now, for example, (in some states) is when you need to make plans if you’d like to attend your state’s WL conference. This is a good place to network with other teachers, share ideas, learn about new techniques and the programs that are available to help you, and get free pens. FREE PENS. Goodness knows you’ll need replacements by then!
If going somewhere is out of the question, do a quick search or ask around about sessions that can come to you, either in person or virtually. This is not written to be a shameless plug for Santillana, but Santillana USA, for example, offers in-person sessions, as well as periodic webinars, aimed at bringing best practices to you. (I imagine other companies do the same, in the interest of impartiality.) And if there is an initiative that your school district is emphasizing, you can look into learning about that topic as it specifically relates to World Languages. Sitting through ANOTHER workshop about the Math and Language Arts Common Core standards when neither applies to you directly? Blerg. But learning about how to use the Common Core in order to actually ENRICH YOUR Spanish classes? Time well spent.
And if you just want a DIY take on PD, how about getting together a World Language PD Book Club? Each month you can do a teeny bit of reading about whatever instructional method or pedagogical research tickles your fancy, and then use those monthly department meetings to share with each other, evaluate what you learned, and find ways to put those concepts into practice that are meaningful to you and realistic, given whatever situation you are in.
I can hear you rolling your eyes at me. I know. But think of it this way: some of the years that I have felt the most successful, the years I felt like I really learned ways to tweak what I was already doing in interesting ways, were when I was in grad school. But grad school is EXPENSIVE! And STRESSFUL! And a major commitment! But a one-afternoon workshop about using critical thinking in the language classroom? A shared departmental project where you learn about using authentic literature in meaningful ways that is actually practical for YOU? That seems like a good way to jazz up your humdrum third quarter, I think.
But the point is, thinking that you will find the time to plan something DURING the doldrums is just silly. That leads to “I’ll start eating right after Christmas Break…er, I mean, Spring Break…er, I mean, summer break.” The time to make arrangements is now. Even if you plan a simple webinar in January, the planning part will be DONE. And you know that time and money get ever scarcer as the year goes on. So be kind to your future self and build a little “power-boost” into your school year, so that the doldrums that inevitably arrive will be a little more bearable.