Finding Time for Better Professional Development (Ep. 184)

With so many teachers sitting through professional development of questionable relevance, it’s time to look for a better option. Today, Art Ed PRO director Amanda Heyn joins Tim to discuss the best options for better art teacher PD. Listen as they talk about what PD should do for teachers, their favorite learning packs in the PRO library, how to approach your admin about getting PRO for your school.  Full episode transcript below.

Resources and Links


Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

Okay, raise your hand if you sat through some terrible professional development at the beginning of this school year. Actually, I don’t know why I’m asking you to raise your hands, it’s not like I’m going to see it here. But what I’m trying to get at is, if you had good PD to begin this year, you were lucky and you were definitely in the minority.

Because year after year, we’re just stuck sitting through programs on using data or initiatives on teacher effectiveness. And I don’t know about you, but I’m always just sitting here thinking I could be a lot more effective, if I could learn something actually relevant.

And the most frustrating part is that it doesn’t change. I mean, I started teaching quite a while ago. My first experience with professional development was terrible. And I remember asking, is it always this pointless? And the veteran teachers who were with me and just laughed at how naive I was, because it always seems to be that way. It has been terrible forever. And in their view, professional development was going to be terrible forever.

But honestly though, at AOEU, we are trying to do everything we can to change that. We do the Art Ed Now Conference, which you hear me talk about all the time and honestly, that’s about as fun and as accessible as professional development can be. If you need grad credit, we are a university now, and if you can’t pay for any of it, which honestly is understandable, we’re teachers after all, AOEU has articles and lesson plans and a couple of amazing podcasts that hopefully will all help you become an even more amazing art teacher.

But I think the biggest piece of the puzzle and what we’ve been talking about most often here on the podcast lately is Art Ed Pro. And the reason we talk about it is because it’s just so, so good. It is everything that we want from our PD. It’s on demand, it’s personalized, it’s specific to the art room, and it’s the antithesis of everything that most people are experiencing from the PD that we usually get from our schools.

So today we’re going to dive deeper into PRO with our PRO director, Amanda Heyn. She has so much that she wants to share, I know. And we’re going to follow up on the discussion with all kinds of links and resources, everything you need for getting Pro in your school. So make sure you check out the show notes, if anything piques your interest, or if you want to know more. So, here she is.

All right, and Amanda Heyn is joining me now. Amanda, how are you?

Amanda: I’m really good. Thanks. How are you?

Tim: I’m good. I am excited that we’re going to talk a little bit about PRO, because as I said in the intro, like we’ve been talking a lot about it, and so I figured it’s probably time to bring you on and just share all of the exciting stuff that’s going on. So let me begin with that. How is everything going with PRO? Can you tell us, I guess, what you’ve been working on, what’s new, what’s coming up that you’re excited about?

Amanda: Yeah, definitely. So things with PRO are going really well. It’s really exciting for me. So some of you might know, I used to run the magazine side of things, and then I was doing both, which was a little nuts. And so now being able to focus just on Pro is really, really good.

And it’s fun for me, because I spent years in the classroom and I was on the receiving end of some not so amazing PD. And so it feels like really fun and vindicating that I get to now be in charge of planning amazing PD for art teachers.

So it’s also a really exciting time in Pro in general, because we can really start to differentiate for our different types of teachers. So when we launched with 36 packs or whatever, we had to make them sort of more general, because we wanted to cover a wide variety of things.

And so now, we can go much deeper into topics. So, for example, I don’t know, we had one called like building blocks of drawing or something. And then we just filmed one called colored pencil, at the high school level. So we can really get into like these specific packs for specific teachers and I’m really excited about that.

And then we just wrapped up a big, giant shoot in the Dallas area this summer, which if you follow us on social media, you probably know that that was a trip. We all flew down there, and then realized that our location was double booked, even though we had to contract. So shout out to Jennifer Torres of Cedars Art House. I don’t know where we would have been, filming on the street somewhere.

Tim: Yeah, I was going to say, just on the side of the street.

Amanda: Yeah, it would’ve been fine. We would’ve made it work. But, yeah, it’s always interesting when we’re out on location, because like we are going to real classrooms with real teachers and there are real problems that pop up. So it’s fun, it’s fun to problem solve.

September’s packs I think are awesome. We have one about black light. We have one about generating ideas for art. Actually, the black light one was really fun. We actually shot it in the dark, which was… yeah, that was new for us and the video team was geeking out about it and it’s really fun. You should definitely check it out.

And then Nick Gehl has generating ideas for art, which is really fun. And then we also have one about strategies for teaching in a school with more of a high needs population, which I think will speak to a lot of art teachers. And then I guess coming up, I’m really excited about a behavior management pack for the elementary art room. We also have one coming up about mindfulness at the secondary level, I’m super excited about. Amber Kane has one about working with advanced students and Lena Rodriguez has one about getting students ready for college and careers. And

then one that I’m very excited to bring to our library for everyone is about parent communication. And Nick Gehl is a former art teacher, now administrator, so he really like has a deep understanding of all sides of this issue, and it’s something that I think a lot of people struggle with. So I’m excited for that one as well.

Tim: I don’t know, it’s just so many cool things going on. And like you said, I love the idea of being able to sort of drill down and focus on smaller things, instead of just doing something like clay ideas. We can talk about surface design and glazing techniques and really get specific about things.

But if I can kind of change directions a little bit, I know a lot of people have given me kind of some pushback, as far as I don’t know if I have time for PRO, I don’t know if I can fit this in. I don’t have time to do one more thing or add one more thing into my schedule.

So if you can give people advice on that, like how would you fit PRO into your teaching schedule, into your school year? Like what are the benefits of doing that? Do you think people have time, or how can they use that time to really make Pro effective for them?

Amanda: Yes. I love this question, because first of all, I think using PRO, whenever you watch it, which I can give some ideas for that in a second, I think it’s going to save you time in the long run. So first of all, like you don’t have to hunt around YouTube for how-to videos or to find a technique. When you go to the PRO library, just like everything AOEU creates, you know it’s created by art teachers for art teachers. So it’s not going to be a question of like if it’s relevant or like everything you watch is going to be worth your time.

And then the techniques that you learn will make you more effective and save you time. So for example, like a whole pack about expediting your grading process, right? Like if you invest an hour into watching that pack and an hour into implementing some of those ideas, that has the potential to save you like tens of hours throughout the school year and hundreds of hours throughout your career.

So there are a lot of different packs like that, like planning for substitutes or collaborating with paraprofessionals, or even learning how to organize your materials, or teach your routines more effectively is going to save you time. And that doesn’t even take into account the 1,000 plus downloads that are already made for you in the library. Like anchor charts, exit tickets, planning sheets, other student facing documents. There’s so much there that’s already done for you that I think it can really be a time saver.

But if we’re just talking about exactly how to fit in watching the learning packs, that is a consideration. Like I said, I’ve been in the classroom, I know that nobody’s going to turn on PRO in the three minutes they have in between classes or after school when they are out at bus duty. Like that’s not possible.

But I think it is doable to watch bits and pieces throughout a day. Maybe you set aside 10 minutes of your prep time every day, or maybe you set aside one prep a week to watch, or maybe you take one lunch a week and you watch it during that time. The really nice thing is that it’s not a full hour long video. It might be 65 minutes a video, but it’s broken down into 15 small snippets.

I know weirdly, like my older kiddo likes to watch it with me. So that’s kind of weird.

Tim: That is.

Amanda: Sometimes we sit on the couch and he’s like really into learning about monoprinting or whatever.

But another way you can do it is during one of your mindless organizing or cleaning tasks, which we know there are many, you can just flip on the auto play feature, and just kind of play it in the background. Pay attention to the parts that you want. So I think that any of those would work.

And then I know, I think we’re going to talk about this later, I hope we’re going to talk about it later, but you can also use it during a PD day and ask your administrator to use it that way. Like when you actually do have time to set aside time devoted to professional development, obviously, this would be perfect for that.

Tim: So can we talk about that right now then?

Amanda: Yes.

Tim: So I’m trying to think how I want to phrase this. So let’s say when you are somebody who’s working alone, whether you’re the only art teacher at the building, or you’re stuck with specials, doing that terrible PD that you talked about, that’s not relevant, do you think it’s worthwhile to approach your principal and say, hey, can I do something by myself with PRO? Show them what it’s about?

Because like here’s my thought. Like let’s say you have a half a day or a full day of that meaningless PD coming, like how do you talk to your principal about that? How do you go about doing something different during that PD time?

Amanda: That is a big question and it is a good question. So I think I’ll start with, how do you ask your administrator? And the first thing I would say is like ask them. According to my mom, what she’s told me my entire life is, the worst thing that they can say is no. And then you’re right back where you started.

So we actually have a really great article. I might be biased because I wrote it, but I think the information is good. But it’s called How to Ask Your Administrator to Pay for Art Ed PRO and it goes through some really specific step-by-step tips and ways that you can go about approaching that conversation with your administrator.

Because sometimes it can be intimidating, but we have a lot of support things for you. We have a great video that you can show them. There’s a download in that article, that’s just a one pager, that pretty much will help you get PRO into your hands.

And the thing is, is that if you think about it from the administrator’s point of view, it’s an easy button for them. Like they don’t want to give you crappy PD. Like that’s not in their-

Tim: Exactly.

Amanda: It’s not in their best interest to make you sit and crunch math data, but they don’t know where to get this PD for you. And they don’t have time to find out. I mean, like just being honest, they don’t have time.

Tim: Even if your admin loves you and loves what you’re doing as a teacher, they’re not going to spend time researching the best PDs. So, yeah, if you can just bring that to them, I think you have a huge advantage there.

Amanda: Exactly. And so I would say definitely check out that article for some tips, for the download, for the video to help you get that conversation started. And then I think the biggest takeaway from that video, or I’m sorry, from that article, is to just go in with a plan. And so show that you’ve also put some thought into what you want to do during that day and why you want to do it.

And so if you’re alone, what I would suggest is we also have this really good resource on the website called The Framework, which I think we can link to. And that is, it kind of takes the whole big picture look at art ed and breaks it down into these six main categories. And then each category has like these different competencies. So what might an effective educator look like in the realm of professional development? What would that teacher be doing on a daily basis?

And so you can kind of hone in on areas of strength and areas of growth for yourself using that document. And then you could go to your administrator and say like, hey, I know I have some work to do on classroom management and I’m going to watch these two packs during this day. And then I’m going to write you a one page reflection.

And if you go in with a plan and then also a plan of how you’re going to show evidence of your learning, I have a hard time imagining an administrator not thinking that’s awesome and not saying yes. Yes, there’s PD we all have to go to that we can’t get out of. But I think that would be a really good starting point.

Also, if you’re alone you can use PRO to brush up on things that you missed in your teacher training. So for me, those printmaking, I think I had like one relief print making class in college. And so I actually did a shoot with Jack Watson about screenprinting, and I learned so much by doing that shoot. And then watching the footage back and there’s monoprinting and transfer printing.

So you can also hone in on things that you might’ve missed or like understanding and implementing IPs is a huge one, that’s like often not addressed in the detail that it needs to be.

Tim: It’s a weak spot for so many teachers.

Amanda: Yes. And that would be just things like that. Topics that you might not be totally up to date on, would be a great way to use the PRO library by yourself.

Tim: I was just going to say, you talked about kind of the framework and putting together kind of a plan, but I know you’ve also put together some plans for doing a PD day with PRO. So can you talk about what you’ve put together, like what it looks like for a half day or a whole day of PD and what people can or should be doing with that?

Amanda: Absolutely. So this is something, as PRO grows, we’ve also been able to develop more resources to help teachers and teacher leaders and arts administrators sort of implement PRO. So, yes, you can watch it on your own and that’s great and I encourage you to do that.

But we also have put together, like you said, some documents essentially, that can help you further avoid those times that make you want to poke your eyes out. So we have one really great document, so this is all about using PRO for an in person PD day. Or like one of those days where you have to come up with something to do if you don’t want to sit in and teach somebody a science lesson.

So the first document that we have is all about using the Art Ed PRO library for a professional development day. And this is more of a general document, but it takes you, if you want to lead it, or you could give this to like your arts administrator, or arts coordinator if they are in charge of leading it. But it takes you through seven steps for using the PRO library to plan an in-person PD day.

So it helps you with everything from identifying your goals and audience, to figuring out the logistics. Like who are you going to meet with, where are you going to meet? And then gives you some guidance about what types of learning pack or learning packs you might want to go through with the group. And then it goes all the way through that accountability plan, right? Like how are you going to assess the success of the day?

And then the second part of that document is this activity menu, which outlines 12 different activities that you could mix and match to make your PD day super relevant and engaging and meaningful for the group of teachers that you’re planning it for. And so that’s a really great place to start.

But then we have sort of a companion document to that, that actually takes those ideas and shows you a concrete example. So the learning pack that we picked to do this is the growth mindset learning pack, and it goes through everything about, like what are the goals, what materials do you need? And then it has a whole day long schedule that you could, I mean, like you could print this out and follow it with any group of teachers.

But if you don’t want to use the growth mindset learning packet, it’s also a really good example of what you could use to build a day around a different learning pack or something like that.

Tim: So you’re thinking like you could just use that as a template, like just choose another learning pack and just look at that schedule and say, okay, this is what I could do for this one on printmaking, this one on ceramics, this one on drawing or classroom management, just whatever, it works for you.

Amanda: Exactly. Yes.

Tim: Cool. All right, I think this has been like a really thorough interview. I like this. But I do have one last question for you to kind of wrap it up. Which packs I guess would you recommend for someone who’s about to start school in the next couple of weeks, or which ones would you recommend for somebody who maybe started recently, just a couple of weeks in the year? Like what are some of the best packs to start your year with?

Amanda: Yes, I definitely have recommendations. So first of all, I just want to say like broadly, if you are interested in something specific, there’s a couple of different ways to search through the library. So along the left hand side there are topics that you can search by. You can also search by facilitator. So the person on the screen, if you have a favorite, you can see, if you really enjoy someone, you can see if they have more packs.

And then you can also narrow it down by grade level, or I should say age level, elementary or secondary. But sort of broad, general recommendations here. So if you are starting your school year, and this is your very first year you’re teaching, or if you are switching levels. A lot of teachers at this time of year move from middle school to elementary, or elementary to high school, or whatever. That can be like almost as jarring or more jarring as starting for your first time.

And so we have three really good packs, surviving your first year of elementary art, surviving your first year of middle school art, and then surviving your first year of high school art. And so those are really good, because it gives you sort of a really good overview of like what to expect, obviously. But also like what are the specific pain points for each one of those age levels, right?

Like elementary art, you need to have your routines and procedures in place and your 50,000 materials organized, or your ship is going to sink pretty soon. Middle school, high school, it’s all about building relationships. So there are different considerations for different age levels. So I definitely think those are great.

Tim: Can I interrupt you really quick?

Amanda: Yeah.

Tim: I just want to say something, because I recorded the surviving your first year of high school one, and I feel like that was just all of my best advice dumped into about an hour and a half of video. It was just an overview, like you said, of everything to expect. But then being able to dive into like what do you do for routines and procedures? What helps the most with classroom management? How do you address organization?

And I just feel like it’s so much wrapped up in such a short timeframe. I think all three of those, whether you are elementary or middle school or high school, like there’s just so much content there.

Amanda: Even if it’s not your first year, you can go in and browse and you might, like you just might watch one specific video or something and get a new tip.

Tim: That’s true.

Amanda: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. The other three I would suggest broadly are understanding and implementing IPs. Shannon Lauffer is just a treasure trove of information there, and has a ton of experience and really breaks down the law.

Tim: I was just going to say, she’s constantly entertaining too. So just like breaking down laws and requirements and actually makes it fun to listen to.

Amanda: Yes, she does. And then we just released one called building leadership skills as an art educator about a month ago, and that one is really good. We should be in the room and I’m talking about that in general, but wherever the decisions are being made, like art teachers should be. And Nick really challenges you to step up and maybe take on some sort of new role this year.

And then also collaborating with para professionals. Again, Shannon Lauffer and again is just a really important pack for kind of collaborating with any other adults that are going to be in your art room for the year. Then, at the elementary level, I’m going to go really fast, I have five top ones. First day activities. Obviously, if you haven’t started yet, that would be a great one to watch. Planning for substitutes, geared toward elementary, but has ramifications for K through 12.

Tim: I could totally use that in secondary. But anyway, go on.

Amanda: Finding success with kindergarten, especially if this is your first time teaching babies, literal babies in the art room, I would suggest checking that out. And then the last two, routines for managing supplies and teaching routines and procedures. Again, going back to those like basic things you have to have in place. And then at the secondary level, I would suggest managing middle schoolers, visual culture. The next one is a two part art, history in the secondary classroom and contemporary art in the secondary classroom. Those go together really well and sometimes kids don’t love to learn about that stuff, but those two packs really talk about engaging ways to talk about that subject with kids.

And then creativity exercises for every level, I think is really great. It’s kind of, it can be used anytime throughout the year, but it would be good at the beginning of the year, I think, to get your kids thinking in different and divergent ways.

Tim: Yeah, for sure. Cool. And thank you for recommending like three of my packs. It makes me feel really special, feel like I did a good job.

Amanda: You’re welcome. You’re so welcome. You did do a good job.

Tim: Amanda, thank you so much for coming on. So information there, I feel like people may have to listen to this interview twice to catch it all, but that’s okay, because I don’t know, PRO is just such an extensive resource. There’s a lot to talk about. So thank you for coming on, breaking it down. Really appreciate it.

Amanda: You are welcome, anytime.

Tim: Now, as I said at the beginning, we will share all of those documents that we talked about in the show notes or on the website. So you have access to all of those, whatever can help you kind of talk about Pro with your admin and what’s there. And then like I said, one last bit about how you can get PRO.

Your district can actually pay for your PRO membership. And honestly, it’s never a bad time to ask for that. We have over 200 districts already providing PRO to their art teachers, because they want their visual arts team to have access to everything, we have the hands on video tutorials, the thousands of resources and the benefit for you as a teacher is just unlimited PD hours, and all of the incredible strategies that you can take from that to incorporate into your art room. So along with all of those resources, you can visit, that’s pro-in-your-school, and you can learn more there and ask your admin if you can get PRO in your district.

All right, thank you for listening. Use what you can from the PD you got from school this year, and just continue to be the best that you can for your students. And if you have the chance, get the professional development that will make your best even better.

Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education University, with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening and we will talk to you again next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.