As teachers, we go to many professional development opportunities. Tons of our hours are spent each year learning to be better teachers, so we know the good trainings from the bad. The good trainings remind of us why we decided to be teachers in the first place and leave us feeling like the new strategy we just learned will help us change our students and the world. The bad trainings make us count the minutes ticking slowly by as we doodle in the blank space of our notebooks or send emails under our desks. So, what can our fearless leaders do to keep trainings meaningful and engaging?
Give teachers choices. There is nothing worse than being told what trainings you have to go to, especially if the topic does not apply to you or is not an area of need. Giving teachers options of what trainings we can sign up for lets us make the best decision for what we need to be better for our students. The tech savvy teacher shouldn’t go to a class on a familiar app, but might benefit from some new classroom management strategies. If in doubt, just ask teachers what types of topics they’d like to learn more about; we can all come up with something.
Engage your audience. My biggest PD pet peeve is when presenters read to me off their PowerPoint slides (bonus annoyance if they are lecturing to you about how to better engage your students). In education, hearing about a strategy is one thing, but seeing it in action is even better. I know that I am far more likely to try something new if I can see what it is going to look like in my classroom. I also know that getting to hear how other teachers use a resource or strategy is just as powerful. Build in that collaborative time; sometimes it is the only time all day we have been able to talk to other adults.
Respect your teachers’ time. In an after school training, even running just a few minutes over schedule can wreak havoc with teachers’ lives. We have dinner to cook, other people to take care, grading and planning to do; that extra time adds up and always makes me feel like I am being held hostage. Be flexible with your plans and know that the amazing but time consuming conversations that are happening are important enough to cut something less important later. If you have too much awesome material to cover, try splitting it into two days instead of packing it into one.
Professional development is an important part of being a teacher and growing your practice. Just like we strive to plan engaging and meaningful lessons for our students, we should also plan professional development opportunities that are engaging and meaningful for our teachers. Student success depends on our growth, and our students deserve our very best.
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