It's that time of year again...planning next school year's professional development calendar. I know that I am in the minority when it comes to coordinators who plan PD for school counselors. We create 1 - 4 hour courses/trainings over 10 months starting in June and ending in March. We have local professors, community based agencies, our own school counselors and myself teach them. Some of the PD courses are site-based in schools and the rest can be achieved through a myriad of ways. Some divisions leave PD wide open and all up to the school counselor to satisfy and others have a very structured controlled system. My division is moving from controlled to less controlled. I actually enjoy creating opportunities for the school counselors in my division. Often, they give me suggestions or I hear about something great at a conference or from other school counselors. First, our PD supports our division's strategic objectives and goals. Second, it supports whatever the "hot" topics are in school counseling/education...that keeps our school counselors current. We also allow conference and workshop attendance to count as PD. This allows the school counselors to be up-to-date with any recent changes in theory and practice. In my opinion, that is what organized PD should be. What makes me cringe is when people throw this random question out there...on listservs...on email...on blogs...anywhere public...I need something to do for PD, who has any suggestions? No, no, no! This is not how you create relevant, meaningful. Again, that's random! That's a random act of professional development! PD is needs based.
Here are some tips when it comes to selecting PD for yourself or others.
- Are there any mandatory, non-negotiable topics that have to be covered in your district? Closing the gap issues, higher enrollment in rigorous courses?
- What are your division's strategic goals and objectives? Does your PD align itself to them? Literacy, technology, 21st century skills, productive citizens
- Have an honest conversation with yourself. What occurred this year that made you question your skills or abilities? Crisis, suicide ideation or suicide, LGBTQ issues, child abuse reporting, site supervision concerns, technology, etc.
- What topics are you forgetting since grad school? Theory, mental health
- Are there any community/neighborhood concerns? Gangs, drug usage, crime
- What can help you be a better school counselor for your students? Review of...the college application process, bullying prevention, character ed, small groups or even a lesson plan share
Asking yourself these simple questions can prevent you from committing horrid random acts of professional development!