03/14/2011 04:04 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Professional Development Means Developing as a Professional

As I look back on my 16 years in education, I've seen many changes:

My hairline. My age. My weight. My paycheck. All have gotten bigger (I've noticed there's a lot more bad than good).

The biggest change deals with expectations.

There's ever-increasing pressure from the state and federal government to improve student achievement. And this attitude shows no sign of slowing down.

One day, I will retire (I hope... I hope... I hope) and at that time it's likely I will barely recognize public education. It will be a shell of its former self. Not necessarily in a bad way, just in a different way (it's a "it's not you, it's me" situation). One of the changes within this big transformation is the way educators approach professional development.

When I started out as a teacher, professional development was almost an afterthought. It was something you did, but not something you took seriously. It was a day off from school and if you learned anything at the meeting... great. And if you didn't learn anything... great. It was win-win because of the day out of school... Did I mention you didn't have to go to school on this day? To summarize, you got out of it what you put into it. Which, in far too many cases, wasn't much.

A decade later, quality professional development is a key component of a successful school district. Curriculum, special education, and technology are constantly changing. In 2011, we need teachers and administrators to change with them. This takes professional development and lots of it (and money... never forget money).

I used to encourage new teachers to ask about benefits when they interviewed. Now I tell them to ask about ongoing professional development opportunities. I guess when you think about it, these are benefits.

For the teacher. For the school. And most importantly, for the students.

This blog was written for VIA. The only quarterly eZine for administrators, teachers and advocates of arts integration! VIA provides research, resources and articles on arts integration that are vital to every program's success.

Email Michael Smith at