If you are reading this, you are a teacher that seeks professional development. This text is an example of free professional development; so are websites like this one, twitter and Facebook groups such as BrELT. There is also another type of professional development we all know well: the industry of language and teaching certifications.
Going back to the title of this text, I will say that I do not know. I unapologetically admit that I cannot answer the question I asked. What I can and will try to start here is a discussion about the subject and maybe together we will come to some conclusions.
We teachers often complain that institutions do not invest in our professional development. I must say that it is rare to find schools that will cover the costs of language and teaching certifications, for instance. To be honest, during my teaching career I have come across that just once and even at that school there was some bureaucracy involved in the deciding who would be granted a scholarship. Schools that offer certificate and diploma courses tend to give their teachers a discount. Given the prices, discounts of course help, but are not normally appealing. Do I think schools could help their teachers out more? Yes.
On the other hand, something that most teachers seem to ignore is that it is very difficult to be a business owner in Brazil, where I am based, and in other parts of the world as well. We are the country of taxes, and business aim at, well, profit. Companies often do not volunteer to pay for your professional development for a reason that might not have occurred to you: they cannot afford it. While I understand the funding of employees’ professional development is not always financially possible, it is not my intention to play devil’s advocate here.
As a company, there is a bare minimum that employees expect from you. Perhaps all your company can offer is that 5% discount, but it is their duty to tell you that and explain why. Do not assume teachers understand that your business needs to be sustainable. Have conversations, negotiate with them, show interest. Being willing to hear their wishes means a lot.
Reality is that bosses and schools come and go. If you work at a place that demonstrates no interest in your development, a place where you feel there are no chances of growing professionally, it is your responsibility to pursue new horizons. It is naive to think that one teacher is going to make a whole institution review their policies and change them. If you have reached a professional plateau, the time to get out of your comfort zone and look for new opportunities is now.
Maybe it is possible (and feasible) to get the best of both worlds. I would love to hear from both teachers and institutions.