Teachers to complete 24 hours of self-directed training, team building
Three professional days have been cut from the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 MCPS calendars and have been replaced with 24 hours of paid teacher professional time, wherein teachers will collaborate with each other outside of the regular school day.
The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) helped to negotiate the elimination of the professional days with the school system because of incongruities in the uses of the professional days across the county, according to MCEA President Bonnie Cullison.
In the past, schools have used professional days not reserved for report-card preparation for technology training, team building and planning, according to 12th grade administrator Patricia Hurley, who believes that the elimination of professional days will be a loss to Blair teachers. "We first started using the professional days before we moved into this building, when we had training on block scheduling,” said Hurley. "We really made good use of the training days.”
Last year, the student handbook had five days marked as professional days, while this year only two full days are reserved specifically as teacher professional days. According to Hurley, the two professional days listed are for recording grades for report cards.
According to Cullison, the problem with professional days was that individual schools and principals determined when and how to use them. Cullison said that the professional days were organized "arbitrarily" and did not always fit the needs of individual teachers. "For example, if a principal scheduled an [English-related] activity, it would not benefit the art teacher," she said.
Teachers will be paid to complete 24 hours of training and team building after school and on weekends to compensate for the loss of professional days and will present plans to show how they spent their professional time, according to Cullison.
Although Hurley feels that the absence of the professional days will hinder teacher planning and development, other Blair teachers are enthusiastic about the flexibility of the new system. "I like the school thinking that I know how to divide up my own time," said NSL teacher Glenn O'Neil.
However, Latin teacher Joseph Lynch feels that the biggest problem with self-directed professional time is the issue of documentation. "No one seems clear about how to report the time [they've] used,” he said. Lynch also mentioned that many of the teachers have not completed any professional time this year because of confusion about documentation.
Cullison contends that although there may be some initial trouble implementing the new professional time, the intent of the change is positive. "We will continue to study it this year and next year to decide if it works, " said Cullison.
Caitlin Garlow. Caitlin is a second-semester senior at last. Her favorite things include making fun of her homeless sister and hunting down her clothes in other people's closets. More »