Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hit the Ground Running: Why Schools Must Amp Up Meaningful PD Before the Bell Rings #PD #EdChat

As the new school year looms on the horizon, it’s high time we talk about something that can make or break the initial momentum for educators: professional development (PD). Now, I know what you’re thinking — not another dreary workshop! But hear me out. The kind of PD I’m advocating for isn’t the sit-and-get variety that has you counting the ceiling tiles. It’s about creating experiences that are engaging, practical, and, dare I say, inspiring. Here’s why school administrators need to prioritize meaningful and actionable PD before teachers set up their classrooms for the new school year.

1. Start Strong

First impressions are everything. The tone for the whole school year is often set in those first few days. When teachers receive PD that is energizing and relevant, it doesn’t just prepare them for the year; it fires them up and boosts morale. There’s a palpable difference between a staff who’s been genuinely inspired by innovative PD and one that’s just gone through the motions. It is important to determine exactly what the focus of the year is going to be and start strong outlining what it is and how admin is going to support teachers and students in implementing this new concept. 

2. Address Real Needs

Teachers are on the front lines, grappling with diverse classrooms where each student's needs can vary dramatically. Effective PD should directly address these challenges, offering tools and strategies that teachers can immediately implement. This means administrators need to really listen to what their teachers are saying and tailor PD to meet those specific needs. Start with a survey and focus on feedback from the staff about what types of support teachers need. Plan to give the teachers something actionable after the PD has concluded. 

3. Build Community

PD sessions are a fantastic opportunity for teachers to connect, collaborate, and share ideas. This can be especially vital in schools where staff might feel isolated in their individual practices. When PD fosters a sense of community, it strengthens the entire school’s support network, creating a more cohesive environment where everyone feels valued and understood. PD can be the only time that different content areas or grade levels come together. It is crucial to build in time to laugh and connect. PD days can be long if the teachers are just being asked to "sit and get". Have fun and grow as a community. 

4. Stay Current

The educational landscape is constantly changing, with new technologies, pedagogical approaches, and curriculum standards emerging all the time. Summer/Back to School PD is the perfect time to catch teachers up and get them comfortable with the latest developments. This isn’t just about keeping up with the Joneses; it’s about providing the best and most current educational experiences for our students. However, do not throw everything at teachers all at once. See what is out there and how these new tools or approaches can support the goal for the year. Make sure whomever is providing the content is someone who is an expert and can connect with teachers because they have shared experiences. 

5. Empower Teachers

There’s something inherently empowering about receiving PD that you can actually use. When teachers feel empowered, they engage more deeply, take more creative risks in their teaching, and ultimately, impact student learning more profoundly. PD should leave teachers feeling equipped and excited to try out new ideas, not overwhelmed and lost in theoretical jargon. Find ways for teachers to own a piece of the professional development. This could be teacher led sessions that allow the community to showcase what they know and everyone can learn together. 

So, let’s ditch the old-school, cookie-cutter PD sessions that feel more like a checkbox on an administrative to-do list. Instead, let’s aim for PD that sparks creativity, addresses real classroom needs, and provides practical tools that teachers can immediately take into their classrooms. Trust me, your teachers — and your students — will thank you for it.

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