Some may wonder about the purpose of having faculty professional development days. What about the conferences or workshops teachers attend? Are they necessary? Just like any other profession, teachers need to attend workshops, conferences, and other training sessions to stay current, collaborate with and learn from others, or inspire them to try new things in the classroom.
One of the main reasons professional development is necessary is so teachers stay current in the field of education, which is constantly evolving. New initiatives and technology are continually added to programs, but teachers need to be trained so they feel equipped in the classroom. During our recent Professional Development day in April, all faculty took part in workshops. The PreK-8th grade faculty attended a session on Responsive Classroom, which provided strategies for positive management and character-building that will be implemented next year in the Lower and Middle Schools. These strategies will make students aware of expectations both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure consistency. The Upper School faculty took part in a Project-Based Learning workshop which allowed them to work on ways they can incorporate PBL into their current syllabi. As we work toward these initiatives, we will offer support to the teachers to promote a successful integration.
Collaboration with colleagues or attending workshops with others in the field of education is imperative to professional growth. Sharing ideas within grade levels or departments allows teachers to see what their peers are doing and how they can help one another. Members of our faculty have a wealth of knowledge that can be shared, if given the opportunity. In addition, attending workshops and conferences outside of school is beneficial because not only are teachers gaining useful information from experts, but they can network with other educators and trade ideas that can be effective in the classroom or the school. When teachers attend a workshop or conference, part of the requirement is to be a resource on the topic for other faculty members.
Professional development opportunities are inspirational. They may be just the spark a teacher needs to try something new in the classroom or an administrator the willingness to implement a new initiative at the school. If some of our teachers had not visited another school to see Responsive Classroom in action, we may not have decided to pursue training. Having teachers inspired by Project-Based Learning influenced others who wanted to learn more about it, which led us to bring in a consultant. Sometimes that is all it takes — for one person to be excited about an idea and spread that energy to others.
The next time you are curious about what happens on faculty professional development days or when your child says his teacher was not in school because she was at a workshop, you will know that they are learning things that can positively impact education. This summer, we are pleased to be sending teachers and administrators to workshops and conferences addressing topics that range from content-based approaches to school leadership and design. Also, plans are underway for training that will take place during the faculty preparation week at the end of August. As educators, we should always continue to learn, grow, and improve!
By Jennifer Schmidt
Mrs. Schmidt is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction.