Shenzhen

While in Shenzhen, I was asked by a Canadian reporter to comment on parent complaints about Professional Development Days. I wrote the following:

Hello from Shenzhen,

It is 7:10am, and I’m up on the 21st floor with my door open listening to the city coming to life. (There’s a 12 hour time difference).

Thanks for asking. I am passionate about the need for teachers to be always learning, and PD days/​Pro D days are one of the ways schools can schedule time to ensure this happens. It is critical for our kids and our country.

As a parent, I understand the inconvenience of either having to figure out if one of us could take a day off work or ask my parents to come for the day (thank God for grandparents!). But it is a short-term pain for long-term gain – not just for my kids but for the greater good. The reality is, I also want what’s best for my kids and I expect that teachers are up to date on the latest research in teaching and learning.

The ideal day involves some learning, some reflecting on how to implement, and some collaborating with colleagues. Teaching days are busy days. I remember going non-stop! So you need time – although there’s never enough! – to lift your head and see if there’s a better way to support the students. For example, with the proliferation of on-line resources (see my blog on Bill Gates) teachers need time to access and analyze new teaching and learning methods, then figure out how they work and plan on effective use. There’s a new trend called “Flip teaching” where the “teaching” of the lesson is done at home, using khan academy, for example, and the “homework” is done in class. This is great news for parents who don’t have to struggle with helping their kids or sending them to expensive tutoring companies! The teachers’ work in class will be so valuable in personalizing the learning when the lesson is done at home. There will be great learning happening in those classrooms where the teacher can focus on individual students. So here the short term pain of a PD day, will lead to long term gain for parents and students (sounds cheesy, but I really believe that PD days are critical to the future. What happens to a company that stops investing in Research and Development?)

CAIS schools have to do extra Pro D. They also have to meet a National Standard: Commitment to Continuous Improvement (It is one of 12 National Standards). Many CAIS schools also require additional PD in the late summer and early fall. We run a Leadership Institute in July that is oversubscribed!

But during the year, it is helpful to stop the daily routine and focus on how you can improve your practice.

John Dewey wrote one of my favorite sayings: “If we teach today’s students as we did yesterday’s, we are robbing them of tomorrow.”

Learning takes time. True collaboration takes time.

Funny that I’m writing from Shenzhen, which was a fishing village 30 years ago and today is a thriving city of 17 million. The Chinese are building infrastructure – I see 18 cranes from my balcony – and they are investing heavily in education. I’m here because they are learning our western ways of teaching and learning and want to be accredited by and associated with Canada’s best independent schools.

So even though education is provincially mandated, I take a national look at education. Does Canada want to invest less in education? Lose our top rankings in the PISA tests?

I hope not.

p.s. At Anhui Concord College of Sino-Canada in Wuhu, I had a wonderful translator who told me she read my blog. She wanted me to know that when she walked with her mother, she walked arm-in-arm.

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