Here in South Australia, if you teach in a government school, you have 41 weeks of active teaching duty for the calendar year. Well, it was until about ten years ago when the state government decided to bring our system in line with the eastern state public systems by dispensing with the 41st week. The cynics pointed out that this was nothing more than a cost saving exercise and the teachers were delighted about not working with students right up until Christmas. But there was a catch.
In order to earn the privilege of an extra week off in the face of a public already convinced that teachers got too many holidays, the government invented some hoops for its teachers to jump through. This became known as the "37 and a 1/2 hours requirement" where accredited professional training and development to the minimum of 37 and a half hours had to be recorded and presented to the principal for verification before signing off early for the summer. The 37 and a 1/2 hours had to be done out of school hours in a teacher's own time so conferences and training done within the school day could not count. Teachers who failed to meet this requirement had to report for duty in what was formerly the last week of the year, sometimes to the local district office if the principal had their hours and had commenced their break!
Principals were also expected to ensure accountability in this system and asked to see certificates of attendance so that they in turn could not be accused of not playing this new game. This varied from school to school in its stringency. At my wife's school when this was introduced, only training aligned to the school's identified priorities could be counted - too bad if you had an interest or membership of a professional organisation that fell outside this parameter. On the other hand, I actually read the book "Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People" and had it counted by my then principal as official PD good for about 15 hours. Oh, and he lent me the book as well!
So for many teachers, the 37 and a 1/2 hours has become a game to play - not for fun but to cynically satisfy the government's needs. I have heard of teachers going to workshops or cheap events to "get their hours up" which is sort of self-defeating if the process of Professional Development is to have any meaning. We all know that seat time and a paper certificate does not ensure that the participant has actually learnt anything of value and become a better practitioner because of it.
By the way, I don't have any problems getting 37 and a 1/2 hours of official PD to qualify. This year I had at least 50 hours of conferences, training events, seminars etc. and that did not include anything I did online. I'm not really sure how this scheme can recognise anything except for "traditional" modes of adult learning/training/PD. How many hours have I logged with my blog, reading the sharpest educational minds from around the world in my Reader, participating in online events (K12 Online etc.), listening to others, watching others etc..? Unless you have a principal who gets it (whatever "it" is) then all of this online interaction and networked learning is not real, not certifiable and does not qualify as proof of improvement as an educator.
The powers that be that created and continue to perpetrate this sham have missed the point. As my principal pointed out in our leadership meeting on Tuesday, "The most powerful way for educators to learn (and grow) is from each other." My network is the biggest collection of "each other" that I could ever hope to learn from - any system that fails to recognise this as a manifestation of the most powerful learning available to its fleet of teachers has really missed the boat.