Professional development is a pair of words that strike fear into the heart of teachers.

Camp01Most often there is a “sage on stage” leading us in “engaging” presentations about “differentiation” while we all “Sit and get.” The quotes are some of my favorite buzzwords from professional development over the years. Prior to teaching, I had only been to “professional development” once. Seriously I had a pretty successful career and only went to professional development once. It was a part of my punishment for speaking up in a meeting. And later caused me to need *knee surgery…

As video production teachers, we need a different type of professional development. While our teaching techniques are extremely important, keeping up with an industry that literally evolves every day is tantamount. It’s not an exaggeration that some of the equipment I will use this year did not exist a year ago. (Example: Henry Engineering’s SportsCaster)

I also believe that video teachers need different professional development because we have a very different mindset than most teachers. We are used to having a group of students in the hallway with $1,000 in equipment, while there is another in the media center and a crew in the studio getting ready for a show while we are proofing scripts, drinking coffee, and answering a phone call from a community group looking for a video yesterday about an event that starts tomorrow. I am not downplaying any other teacher/teacher type in the building but video teachers have to balance creative, technical, administrative, and detail mindsets concurrently.

Camp T&I meets each year during the first week of June. It is a partnership between the Georgia Department of Education and the Career Technical & Agricultural Education Resource Network. I first attended Camp T&I in the summer of 2012. I was blown away. Not by the dark room in the back of a community college in Savannah. Or the lack of internet access. Or the fact that as teachers introduced themselves, I was the newest to the profession by 4 or 5 years. (And had only taught part-time…) I was blown away by the fact that all of those teachers shared so freely. Shared lesson plans. Shared successes. Shared failures. I knew immediately there was something special here.

"As a first time attendee, I was impressed with the information provided during Camp T&I. I enjoyed meeting my fellow teachers from throughout the state and learning from them."

Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago. There were over 50 teachers sharing lessons in three rooms with great internet and a proverbial buffet of food and knowledge. Camp T&I is now hosted at the Golden Isles College and Career Academy in Brunswick, Georgia. Also, the event has gone from two days to four with many teachers asking for a fifth day….Camp02

Before we go any further, I want to let you know that I am part of the team that programs Camp T&I so I am very biased. I wrestled with how to present this article but while reading the survey results, it hit me. This article will be based on survey responses from attendees. The survey was administered by the Georgia DOE and the attendees did now know that I would have access to it - as you will see in one of the responses.

This is one of the things that I am most proud of from this event. It is extremely important that teachers who attend professional development get information about teaching, etc but I believe it is far more important that teachers build a network. While we often work alone in our building, we don’t have to be alone. Camp T&I has some time built in that allows for conversation between teachers and opportunities to work together to gain more experience. This allows teachers to get to know teachers in their area of the state or from their specific focus (Film or Video). This allows for advanced teachers to share their lessons and experiences with newer teachers while the newer teachers share their newly found passion with the teachers with more experience.

The extra day was a huge plus. It made the workshop more enjoyable.

This year was the first year that we started on Tuesday. The last several years we have taken half of a day to go out into the field in groups and work together to produce either a short film or a newspackage. This year, we took a whole day to do this. One of the things that the State DOE has always been concerned with was our teachers actually going out and producing. To my knowledge, as evidenced by the products produced, the teachers do go out and actually do work.

Someone has to tell Tom white and (Another Teacher) to quit talking during presenters.

This one made me giggle. I have long joked that the worst part of my class is me. But, I did reach out to this teacher and ask if they remembered what session it was. They told me which session it was and I remembered the conversation. We were talking about NDI and the other teacher had an epiphany and had a ton of questions so I was answering. I will keep that in mind as I walk through sessions in the future.

The food provided by the workshop was excellent.

Our host, Kevin Pullen, and his wife put together a spread for the teachers like nothing else in professional development. While there are bagels and cream cheese, fruit trays (hand cut by the way), and coffee, there is also praline stuffed french toast and shrimp and grits. Kevin and I have talked several times over the years about why teachers come to the training and stay despite all of the distractions. I conclude that it is food. There is always “another act” that Kevin has put together.

Great workshop and great speakers.

This is by far the most important thing in my opinion. Having a variety of speakers on a variety of topics. The variety of voices prevents someone from preaching “their truth” to a group of people who have paid to attend the sessions from an often self-proclaimed expert. The key to Camp T&I is the variety of people who attend and present. The teachers who present have volunteered to present on the topic of their choice. When I attend professional development events, I tend to stay toward the back so I can hear what others are saying or see their reactions. One of my greatest disappointments is when I see or hear a teacher “give up” because the topic or tool being discussed is “something that I will never experience so I don’t need to pay attention.” I experienced this recently when someone was showing teachers how to use a high-end camera. One of the teachers backed away from the discussion and began playing on their phone. Their passing statement was “I’ll never have one of those so I really don’t care.” While I don’t want to discuss the teacher’s overall attitude, it should be mentioned that the topic wasn’t something they could handle so they backed out.” We prevent that as best we can with concurrent sessions which can only be done if the event is set up without a “sage on stage” but instead a teacher who cares to share without expecting anything in return.

Ultimately professional development doesn’t need a venue, doesn’t need a plan, and certainly doesn’t need an expert. It requires teachers who care enough to share their experiences with teachers so they can either plan to receive the same success or plan to prevent the same failure. Effective professional development requires topics that matter to those in attendance and lessons that teachers can imagine using in their classroom. Professional Development is key to your growth as an educator and is essential to your student’s growth as video professionals.

If you are interested in the planning documents we used to plan three concurrent sessions or the forms for teachers to sign up to present, please let me know. I too am happy to share!

*Long story short on the professional development knee surgery. I was sent to time and stress management class as a result of me snapping on a co-worker and a supervisor during a meeting. So 3 days of learning how to use a calendar and techniques to relieve stress - while my work piled up - was my punishment for my transactions. During one of the stress relieving techniques, we were instructed to flex our muscles in order from our toes to our head and back. Well on the way back to my toes, I flexed my leg muscles and felt a pop. That pop was literally the end of my femur. Fast forward 6 weeks to arthroscopic surgery to clear the broken bits followed by 10 weeks of non-weight bearing crutch yielding awesomeness at work. All of those things really helped with my stress….

TomWhiteHeadshot 175Tom White is the digital media instructor at Morgan County High School in Madison, GA. Currently teaching TV production and animation pathways, Tom's programs have received state and national honors including the 2016 NFHS Network School Broadcast Program Of The Year.

Prior to teaching, Tom was a marketing, promotions, and online content director for a major radio corporation in Atlanta. Tom studied exercise science at High Point University prior to his radio career. Despite his winding career path, his mother still thinks he is special.