You might wonder about the purpose of having faculty professional development days. What about the conferences or workshops that teachers attend? Are they necessary?
As with any 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.
This fall, all faculty members took part in workshops focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in relation to our curriculum. Four sessions, led by our faculty and administration, focused on the topics of implicit bias, incorporating social justice standards into the curriculum, communication that works for all families, and inclusive curriculum for all students.
During the summer, new faculty attended an institute on Responsive Classroom, which provided strategies for positive management and character-building. 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 teachers gain useful information from experts, network with other educators, and trade ideas that can be effective in the classroom or school. When teachers attend a workshop or conference, part of the requirement is to be a resource on the topic for other faculty members.
Other workshops that teachers have recently attended or will be attending include: Fundations, Dynamics of Dyslexia, Art Teachers’ Toolbox, and the Illinois Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ICTFL) Conference.
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 the training.
We realized that providing teachers with professional development about diversity, equity, and inclusion is essential in creating and maintaining a positive school culture. We aim to embrace our differences while cultivating an inclusive environment for all learners and handling experiences with integrity and justice. As we prepare our students to be independent thinkers and global leaders, we want to start with everyone in our community feeling safe, respected, and included.
The next time you are curious about what happens on faculty professional development days or when your child says their teacher was not in school because they were at a workshop, you will know that they are learning things that can positively impact education.
By Jennifer Schmidt
Mrs. Schmidt is our Assistant Head of School, School Programs.