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Rethink Your PD: Fire the Consultant

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You're Fired: Brilliant or Insane
photo credit: You’re Fired! via photopin (license)

I used to refer to myself as a consultant (I probably had it on a business card once). So, am I suggesting firing me? In a way, Yes!

When I first left the classroom in 2013, I was always looking for ongoing consulting work with schools. “You don’t need the one-and-done workshop,” I’d say. “You need capacity building. You need me to visit monthly, or maybe bi-weekly.”

Of course, this type of work comes with a hefty price tag and imposing travel expenses. (Yes, in case you’re wondering, I do feel bad now that I promoted myself this way back then.)

I know other education consultants who push this poison pill–the so called “capacity building model.” They’re not bad people, mind you. Like I once was, they are convinced that the more they hold teachers’ hands, the more likely it is that the school and its staff will improve.

Capacity Building! It has a nice pedagogical ring, doesn’t it? Lots of school leaders are popping this poison pill and crushing their school’s PD budget, in the process.

Put Down That Poison Pill

Take note from a veteran, international presenter, publisher, and former seller of the capacity building model: Schools absolutely do not need ongoing, longterm, “pedagogically-sound” professional development.

Schools need inexpensive PD that they can develop into their own capacity-building model, working collaboratively with their own stakeholders.

In today’s digital world, it’s unnecessary to employ a consultant who shows up for weeks at a time, at a price tag well into five, and sometimes, six figures. So, put down that check book and fire your longterm consultant today.

How to Do It

  • Use your own people — you have experts on your staff. Seek them out and ask them to share what they know.
  • Attend or organize Edcamps. These are free unconferences: gatherings where educators decide what to discuss and how to solve problems together–without high-priced consultants.
  • Find the best education books, written by experts, and put them in your stakeholders’ hands. You can buy in bulk from the right publishers. Then, organize book talks and flesh out how to best use the information in the books.
  • Build your tribe: Find experts on Twitter, Facebook, Voxer, Blab and other backchannels and seek their advice. These experts exist, and they want to help–sometimes at very reasonable fees and often for free.
  • Create on-site teams that plan implementation of ideas learned through Edcamps, backchannels and books. Gather a small team of stakeholders at your school and in your community and empower them to put strategies into action.
  • Return to the one-day workshop. These are inexpensive and, if you have the right person, they can pay huge dividends. Especially when you follow up with the previously mentioned on-site team approach.

What’s Next?

Easy. Fire the consultant today. Join a tribe; visit an Edcamp; read a bestselling education book. You’ll save money, improve immediately, and teachers will love you.

What could be better than that?

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Mark Barnes is the Founder and CEO of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 115,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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