Today was Wellness Day at Weston High School — a day off for the students, and a day of professional development workshops for the teachers.
“Professional development”: what thoughts does that phrase conjure up? FWIW, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say:
Professional development often refers to verbal and tactile skills required for maintaining a specific career path or to general skills offered through continuing education, including the more general skills area of personal development. It can be seen as training to keep current with changing technology and practices in a profession or in the concept of lifelong learning.
Actually, that’s not bad, except for the bizarre reference to “verbal and tactile skills” in the first clause. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts appropriately requires all teachers to participate in professional development every year, and the town of Weston offers us a wide variety of opportunities, ranging from required curriculum-based seminars to optional workshops in the summer. Once a year we have Wellness Day.
So, what is it that makes me uncomfortable about this? I do recognize that all employers have a legitimate interest in keeping their employees healthy and productive. And I do recognize that a Wellness Day can be useful, fun, and intellectually stimulating. And I do recognize that it could also be an opportunity for community-building. Yet somehow it doesn’t add up for me. At least it doesn’t add up to professional development. Not to my eyes, at any rate.
And what, you ask, did I do today? We had some required activities, plus one session where there was a one-out-of-four choice, and two sesions where there was a one-out-of-many choice. During the day I participated in a “dumb game,” I listened to a very worthwhile presentation on bullying from a representative of the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office [!], I had lunch with my colleagues (a lovely make-your-own-fajitas meal organized and paid for by the PTO and prepared by the Administrative Council), I attended a session that showed a couple of movies about first aid, and I went on a long walk. I could have gone on the walk on my own, not on school time, but at least this way I got to have an extended one-on-one conversation with the drama teacher/theater director. I enjoyed that a lot, since I rarely get more than five minutes with him.
In fact, I enjoyed the whole day. But I’m still not convinced that it’s professional development.