Why do some teachers never have time for PD while others always make time?

Why do some teachers say they don’t have time for Professional development?

How many of us have heard someone say something like this to or about a teacher:

“Teachers have it easy, only working from 8 to 4, weekends off + the whole summer”.

uuuuu…NO, “Teachers do a ton of work outside of school hours, and also grapple with emotional and intellectual challenges worthy of the world’s top minds. We have some nice perks that other jobs lack, but we’re also the ones grading 140 essays, weekend after weekend. We love having a change of pace during the summer, but most of us spend July and August doing professional development and taking extra jobs to make ends meet. Very few careers are “easy,” and teaching is certainly not one of them!” Lillie Marshall

The teaching profession is a very busy job, I know. I’ve been there. According to the Daily Mail the average working week in the UK is 37 hours, but teachers clock up an average of 48.3 hours as they take coursework home with them. We are actually #2 out of the most hard working professions, 1,3 hours per week behind production managers and directors of mining and energy firms.


(I got a feeling that 50% of teachers work 40 hours and the other 50% work 56 hours…but that’s a different story)
Despite those long hours teachers still feel like they can’t do everything the want.
How often for example have you heard a co-worker say:

  • “I don’t have time for professional development.”
  • “If I could work one additional month, I may have time to learn the new standards.”
  • “Our grade level doesn’t have time to meet as a Professional Learning Team.”
  • “I don’t have time to join a professional organization.”
  • “We could get our students ready for middle school if we had more time.”
  • “I don’t have time for vertical alignment.  I can barely align the curriculum at our grade level.”
  • “We don’t have time to contribute to a Google Doc created to enhance communication across schools.”
  • “I don’t have time to take an online PD developed to make me a better teacher.”
  • “If I had more time for unit planning, I would incorporate more project-based learning.”
  • “If I had time to learn how to use technology, I would have more technology integration in my units.”

I can’t stand it when teachers say: “I don’t have the time to….” What I want to say when I hear that is something like:

“Oh, you mean your learning stopped after graduation?  You know a lot has happened since 1991…”

But I usually end up saying something like: “You mean you don’t make the time.”

We all have 24 hours in a day… (although I think Gerorge Couros (@gcouros), Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) & Shelly S. Terrell (@ShellTerrell) have much more than that in their day…) The thing is most people don’t make the time.

How did I make time?

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?
-Henry David Thoreau

I know most teachers work more than 8 hours a day, well I actually believe the teaching profession is divided into 2 groups:

  1. The people who work 8 hours, take their full lunch, coffee break and don’t do anything extra.
  2. The people who work way to much, grab lunch while reading an article or watching a TEDtalk and drink their coffee at home at 10 p.m. to stay up, learn and do more.

I was in the 2nd group… Until recently, when I realized that sometimes I was so tired during class that It would have been better to get some sleep because (despite my believe) my work after 11.59 p.m. isn’t actually that good. Rest is important, it’s important to take a break and breathe.

So I’m now in a group between those two… I’ll call it “Group 1½”.
I now go to work 6.30 a.m. (You can’t believe how much work you can get done when no-one else is at school, but don’t tell them or else your school will be full of teachers at 6.30…) and work until about 4.30 p.m. (30 minutes after normal people leave).
I decided to prioritize and made a list. Since I wanted to cut down on my work-hours I had to throw away the things that got in the way of actual meaningful work and only put on the list things I had to do.

The list looked like this:

  • Build my PLN on Twitter.
  • Make time every day for Professional Development. Maybe just one article or video
  • Start an PD program for other staff members in your classroom for just 30 minutes a week. See my idea of Professional Thursdays
  • Start a class blog. Read about my class blog here… and see the blog here
  • Start my own blog and write about things I care about. It isn’t all great but at least I’m thinking and sharing.
  • Call the parents of each student at least once a semester just to check up on them and compliment their child (our school year is 3 semesters).
  • Don’t take on too many projects at once.  Say NO to my principle and administrators once in a while. Take on a few projects and do them all a 110% rather than adding projects to my workload and doing them poorly.
  • Take action, do what is needed and don’t wait for administrators to do it all the time. It is my school as well.
  • Go to sleep no later than 11 p.m.

But of course I had to add things that I could’t stop doing (if I wanted to keep my job) so I added them to my list:

  • Teaching the Common Core Standards
  • Administering and Analyzing standardized Assessments the school enforced.
  • Planning Units
  • Attending Faculty Meetings
  • Report Cards
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences
  • Providing Students With Quality Feedback
  • Modifying Instruction to Meet the Needs of Each Learner
  • Implementing Local Initiatives

(source: EDGE)

These are the things that I absolutely must do, and I got rid of the other stuff.
+I used technology (my iPhone & iPad) to use my time better, learn and stay organized,( f.x. Evernote, Twitter, Reminders, Mail straight from my iPad or iPhone, Dropbox etc.) 

What can you do?

I suggest you make your own list of things you can’t stop doing + add the things I suggest and your own. Throw away all the things you can and want to get rid off.

If you’re not sure what you can stop doing here is a list (from Clouducation) of things you CAN stop doing because they get in the way of meaningful learning:


  • Complaining about all of the initiatives that have come and gone.
  • Assigning homework and grading it.What exactly are you grading? Chances are, you are grading the parent’s ability or willingness to help the student do the homework.
  • Pretending that education technology will eventually go away.
  • Waiting for administration to do something.
  • Complaining about parents.
  • Doing someone else’s workload all the time.
  • Underestimating the power of what we teachers do.

There are always things that get in the way (that we put in the way). Some people think that what they are doing is just fine and they don’t need any PD because what they are doing just works, and has worked for the past 15-20 years… Well if it’s so great, tell them to SHARE WITH US!

The people that say they don’t have the time usually don’t want to have the time. This article was not written for those people… but again they would never have read this.
I suggest you share this with at least one colleague that you believe wants to make the time for PD and hopefully you can do it yourself as well.

Good luck,
Ingvi Hrannar
Icelandic Elementary Teacher

Other helpful stuff:

TEDtalk: Why work doesn’t happen at work by Jason Fried

Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson

Creator | Educator | Designer | Everything I produce is work in progress | Stanford Alumni in Learning, Design & Technology Twitter: @IngviOmarsson / @IngviHrannar

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