Depending on your district, funds for professional development resources may be short. And since you're dedicated enough to be reading a blog for educators, you probably just go out and drop the cash for the latest and greatest (mega overpriced) PD book.
Am I wrong?
In both of the schools I've spent most of my teaching time (an urban middle school in Baltimore and a rural high school in West Michigan), funds for buying PD books haven't exactly been advertised. However, in both places they've existed, and in this blog post I'll share how I've repeatedly gained access to them for my personal PD needs.
So, how do you get that cash money?
Getting PD books paid for by your district is all about argumentation. By crafting a solid argument and attending to Task, Audience, and Purpose (TAP, baby!) and by remembering to only ask for the resources that I really need and that I'm really going to read (admit it!), I've usually happened to get what I ask for.
Here's how I use TAP to write effective resource requests:
- Task: This is simple. You want a PD book or two, and you've got to get the money holders in your school (often the principal) to hook you up. To do this, you are going to provide a professional, well-reasoned argument for why you need these resources and why your request is worth the expenditure of school money.
- Audience: In both of my schools, my audience was my administrator. Contrary to popular belief, principals are not evaluative robots or low-functioning automatons; they are human. Figure out what they value, and connect that with your argument. What kinds of evidence and reasoning will that particular person best receive? Hint: student achievement is probably on that list!
- Purpose: Be clear about your purpose. Ultimately, you want to see your students flourish (that's non-eduspeak for “increase student achievement”). You believe that these PD resources will answer some of your burning questions as a teacher, and they will help you improve learning in your classroom. Not only that, but since you are an awesome person, you intend to share what you learn (when appropriate) with your colleagues.
A sample resource request email
Below, you'll find a successful resource request that I wrote one year. In this request, I actually ask for five books to read over the summer. I sent the request via email:
The book that you purchased for me a couple months ago (The Big Idea, by Jim Burke) was very helpful in shaping my thinking, and my students are benefitting from the inquiry-based approach that the book has helped me hone. Additionally, framing units around engaging questions is drawing more of my students into arguing, and that's right up the Common Core's alley.
The more you read, the more you read, right? I'm wondering if you have $40 left in your PD funds. The following books have come up frequently in my study of Schmoker and other authors this year; I have included prices for used versions of these books for the sake of your consideration:
- Clueless in academe, by Gerald Graff, $9 used on Amazon (all used prices include shipping)
- Graff is similar to Conley (below); he analyzes what themes tie all college learning together and how students are (or aren't) prepared to grapple with college; Graff got me started on the idea of argument in the classroom
- College knowledge: What it really takes for students to succeed and what we can do to get them ready, by David Conley, $7 used on Amazon
- The art and science of teaching, by Marzano, $12 used on Amazon
- Classroom instruction that works, by Marzano, $5 used on Amazon
- Everything's an argument, by Lunsford, $4 used on Amazon
In total, I believe this excellent summer professional development package would have a ripple effect on our school in the coming years through my interactions with other teachers, and it will only cost a mere $37 through Amazon's used booksellers. If the money is available in our building's PD allocation, I would love to leverage learnings from these books to help make our students increasingly prepared for college and career, and I'd be happy to sit down with Kamie and help her order them.
Thank you for your time in considering this request; have a great day,
Here are some final pointers for getting the PD books you need:
- Make the value of the request clear. Why should taxpayer dollars be allocated to this request?
- Read any books you receive. If you request a PD book, don't just write your name on the binding and put it on your shelf and occasionally admire how pretty it looks. Get into that text, mark it up, and begin making thoughtful, experimental improvements to your practice.
- Strive to be a person who your bosses will want to invest in. In my case, this doesn't mean being perfect — there are probably few teachers who screw up as much as I do — but it does mean being teachable and cultivating working relationships with your administrators.
Got any pointers of your own?
I'd love to hear what's worked for you — share in the comments.