After my recent rant about the accreditation process in NSW, I thought it best to put a positive spin on it.

For all my New Scheme Teacher (NST) buddies out there going through the same process, don’t be disheartened. Malyn Mawby (@malynmawby) has applied a solid dose of common sense to the discussion and suggested that we support each other more emphatically through the process. Or, in Twitter terms, #hackthesystem.

Whilst there have been suggestions that some members of our profession choose to submit less-than-legitimate submissions to the Institute for approval (everything from materials not relevant to the standards through to outright fakery just to finish a portfolio), I would like to think that every teacher is prepared to be brutally honest with themselves and therefore the Institute. To do this, each of us must prepare a selection of documents for appraisal that are a true reflection of what we do (or try to do) in our normal practice.

I acknowledge that this process is on par with schools’ preparations for inspections by the Board of Studies, whereby everyone seems to find the right documentation even though it may not have existed last week in some cases. The very fact that we have the process makes the process artificial.

But what if we streamlined it through sharing? What if those (like me) who have gone through the process to be accredited at the lofty title of ‘competent’ shared our experience with others so that what they can focus on is not which bits of paper to put in, but rather what those documents mean as a reflection of them as a teacher.

Instead of: “What can I do to achieve this standard?”

Rather: “I just finished creating this new, innovative assessment task – maybe I should include it in my portfolio!”

We need to flip the thinking from ACCREDITATION FIRST to PEDAGOGY FIRST.

So, I suggest that teachers start signing up for PD that interests them and that challenges them. Find PD opportunities around you that are both formal and informal. Connect with people rather than sitting idly in a lecture room, letting the voice at the front drone on and on without you needing to think. Take control of your PD so that you are leading your own learning, rather than being led by ‘experts’, ‘associations’ or standards. That’s coming from someone who loves listening to experts (TED talks for example), who is a Director of an Association and who actually has had some great conversations with people about standards. Yes they are there and yes they have their place, but it is not at centre stage of our craft.

Lectures have their place I suppose, but I’ll never forget one of the first lectures we had on teaching methodology whereby we were told not to ever lecture to a class. We had been out of school for 2 years. When one brave soul in the crowd of budding pre-service teachers asked “So, um, why are you making us sit through lectures?” The answer was “because you are adults.” I did laugh, but I don’t when I think back on it now.

Thanks to TeachMeets and Twitter, I have ADHD when it comes to bad PD. I can happily sit and listen to a podcast – though usually driving somewhere – on the origins of the Crusades. I will, as I did this afternoon, sit with a colleague and debate and create conversations around pedagogy. For an hour. In our own time. Unscripted and unsupervised. Dangerous.

My challenge is for you to do the same. Create your own PD opportunities. Find a mentor (click HERE for some videos that relate to it!). Ask questions in a lecture. Sit down with your supervisors and Exec and explain why you’d like to attend a symposium on neuroscience when you teach junior History (see earlier post from Day 2 of the Festival of Education – neuroscience telling us that schools have it wrong when it comes to adolescent brains).

And, when and if you think of it, you can log these kinds of things with the Institute as “teacher-identified” hours. Remember NSTs, we need to do 50 hours minimum every 5-year maintenance period. If you attend just 3 TeachMeets a year (3 hours each on average), that means 3x3x5 hours = 45 hours. Plus your regular staff meetings and PD days at school, you’re done! From there, you can do PD that you value and that makes a real difference to your practice. You owe it to yourself and to your students to find this space, free of obligation and requirements, where you can explore the teacher you want to become.

I’ve added two photos to this post.

One is of the list of PD that I have remembered to log. A note here, because I was smart/silly enough to do postgraduate study in the maintenance period, I was exempt from any (that’s right, any) PD hours in that maintenance period. There is a process behind it which I’m happy to help anyone through – yes, it’s a little tedious.

The second is an example of how I have filled out the information to have a TeachMeet I attended recognised as Teacher Identified PD. As you can see in the list, TeachMeet Xmas was approved by the Institute in this way. See? Told you it was a practical post!

Standards addressed: 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, 1.2.4, 2.2.1, 2.2.2, 2.2.3, 2.2.4, 2.2.5, 2.2.6, 3.2.1, 4.2.1, 4.2.2,  4.2.3, 5.2.3, 6.2.1, 6.2.2, 6.2.3, 6.2.4, 6.2.5, 6.2.6, 6.2.7, 6.2.8, 7.2.4, 7.2.5

In the description box: “TeachMeet Xmas is a collaborative, informal and engaging professional development experience in which teachers meet to present on and discuss various pedagogical, technological and theoretical issues and ideas. Presenters and participants alike are required to participate in stimulating and rigorous critical conversations regarding their practice.

And lastly, do it because you want to do it. Not because you have to. The more value we can get out of PD, the more value we can contribute back into the profession. Then people won’t wait to read your Institute report to see whether you are a good teacher on paper, they’ll already know.