When Professional Development Becomes Unprofessional It’s Time for a Change

When Professional Development Becomes Unprofessional It’s Time for a Change

By: Beanie Geoghegan

Teaching is a profession. As with any profession, it is sometimes necessary to hone or fine-tune the skills that improve performance, or productivity. But the question remains: why do so many school districts patronize and condescend to teachers by requiring them to participate in “professional development” sessions that not only don’t help them become more effective teachers, but are demeaning to their intelligence, experience, and education level? 

When DEI Hijacks Professional Development 

For instance, this February during Black History Month, some districts opted to focus on divisive ideologies and agendas rather than offering professional development highlighting the fantastic contributions, achievements, and successes of so many Black Americans over the years. In the largest district in Kentucky- Jefferson County- teachers were required to participate in an “Implicit Bias Training” designed by Millennium Learning Concepts. The training titled,  “A Walk in My Shoes” is a four-hour series of lessons “that will raise awareness, provoke thought, and encourage action around implicit bias.” Every teacher must also submit a Racial Equity Improvement Plan to the administration following the training. 

Another “professional development” also offered in the Jefferson County district during February was titled “Advancing Equity Through the Creation of Identity Affirming Spaces.” During these sessions, educators will “think about how they show up into justice-centered work” and “consider the conditions that are needed within organizations to advance affirming spaces that generate a sense of belonging…for youth.” Dr. Erica Buchanan-Rivera, who hosted this training, makes her agenda clear as she proudly dons a shirt with the words “decent, decolonizes, dismantle” in her profile picture.

professional developmentDistricts pay Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) consultants thousands of dollars for training sessions that teachers neither benefit from, nor enjoy participating in. The data on student learning makes it clear that the information shared doesn’t translate into more effective teaching methods. Evidence for the latter is not publicly available or documented because so many teachers fear repercussions for speaking out. Still, conversations in person and in private social media groups reveal the genuine opinions of educators regarding these sessions. 

Useful Training Resources Is the Solution

There is still hope for teachers who genuinely want to develop as professionals. While some teachers were forced to sit through divisive and unproductive training sessions during Black History Month, others from all across the country had the privilege of participating in the inaugural professional development, Empowering Black History: In Theory and Practice, offered through the Woodson Center. This free five-week course highlighted Black Americans who have made tremendous contributions to our country, sometimes against incredible odds. Teachers learned about and discussed ways to incorporate the free lessons and the Woodson Principles into their classrooms. The highlight of the course was getting to hear from Mr. Woodson and Mr. Ian Rowe on the final evening. The teachers who participated stated that it was the most practical and useful professional development they’d had in years- maybe ever. 

Other organizations are seeing the void regarding useful training resources for teachers who desire to be more effective in their classrooms. The Jack Miller Center equips teachers with the knowledge and tools to use primary and secondary source documents when teaching history to their students. The Freedom Foundation is gearing up to host the second annual Teacher Freedom Summit in Denver, CO, this July. Testimonials from teachers who attended last year have encouraged even more teachers to apply this year. Additionally, The Bill of Rights Institute and The Foundation for Economic Education also offer free professional development for educators.

Teaching isn’t just a job; it’s a profession that impacts millions of children daily. We should ensure that those professionals are equipped with the best content and most effective instructional methods available. Districts should not waste teachers’ time and taxpayer dollars on consultants peddling the latest education fads, social agenda, or meditative techniques. When teachers receive quality professional development, all students benefit. 

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