Two Secrets to Holding Teachers’ Attention During Professional Development

Messy desk with teachers have class mug

To improve any professional development activity, it helps to keep two things in mind:

In many ways, teachers are exactly like students

Teachers do a lot of irritating things during professional development sessions. They talk. They play with their phones. They sit waaay in the back and do work for other classes. Then, when they have to write a follow up assignments, the first question is often, “How long does it have to be?”

No one knows better than teachers do how frustrating these behaviors can be.

On the other hand, teachesr also know how the kids would react if they were sitting there while someone read aloud to them from a PowerPoint presentation. Teachers pay a high price for not being well-prepared, which makes it doubly frustrating when someone introducing anew computer program, for example, answers questions by saying, “I think there’s a number you can call…” Sometimes, teachers who channel their students’ behavior during PD sessions are subconsciously putting presenters to the test.

The good news is that presenters can improve the chances of keeping teachers’ attention the same way teachers keep students’ attention: Learn as much about your audience as possible. Know your subject. Present it in an engaging way. And you get bonus points if you can make everyone laugh.

Like students, teachers get a little restless sitting in seats for so long.

In many ways, teachers are not at all like students

Teachers are not children. They do, however, get frequent reminders that they barely rank above students in the education-authority food chain. It should be no surprise that they react with hostility when presenters lecture at them like kids in detention, ask them to change seats to make sure they’re paying attention, or make them chant things in unison.

The good news is that presenters can improve the odds of holding teachers’ attention the same way one holds most adults’ attention: Learn as much about your audience as possible. Know your subject. Present it in an engaging way. And you get bonus points if you let everyone out fifteen minutes ahead of time to beat traffic.

Unlike students, teachers don’t need to be kept busy until the bell rings.

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