One thing that teachers always desire better from is their school and/or district’s professional development. There’s a lot of recommendations that teachers have concerning how to improve teacher praxis. Administrators do as well.
But much of the professional development that happens throughout the year feels more like procedural instructions and compliance measures for teachers. By that, I mean presentations on logistical info, payroll, submitting lesson plans, prep period usage, and etc.
The end of the school year offers administrators an opportunity to assess every aspect of the previous year to make the upcoming year that much better for students and teachers. The professional development program/agenda is assessed as well.
As school building and district leaders develop professional development for the next year, I would encourage them to really focus on supporting teachers in the areas of teacher content and teacher instruction. Supporting teachers in these areas will go a long way with impacting student growth and engagement.
In the area of content, school and/or district leaders must support teachers concerning teacher content knowledge and teacher content delivery. Teacher content knowledge refers to the knowledge a teacher has about their content. Teacher content delivery refers to the strategies for articulating their knowledge to students.
In the area of instruction, school and/or district leaders must support teachers concerning teacher instructional outcomes and teacher instructional strategies. Teacher instructional outcomes refers to the desired information/knowledge the teacher desires the students to internalize as a result of their teaching the lesson. Teacher instructional strategies refers to the various methods utilized for students to internalize the information/knowledge from the lesson.
This may seem elementary; teachers should already know what to do concerning these areas. However, where we [educators] can fall short in our praxis is taking the basic things for granted: assuming that we have our content and instructional praxis covered and up to snuff. Educators are students also; we have room to grow. If we believe that there is little to nothing more to learn and that we can grow more, we will regress.
School leaders MUST prioritize and invest in teacher growth in the areas. Prioritizing means places these at the top of the list for PD. This is a must for building principals since they are instructional leaders. Investment means dedicating time and intention on securing the best resources for teachers to grow in those areas.
For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the latter specifically.
Sometimes, the best resources for teachers come from teacher leader/teaching experts. Those folks may not be in your school building or within your school district. The best supports for teachers may come from outside your district altogether. They may come from other school districts, consultant/consultant organizations or from university spaces.
It’s imperative that you tap into these folks/groups to support teacher content and instruction. Reading books is good but they will not grow teachers without someone to support their analysis of their reading and their translating knowledge into teacher practice.
But I must caution, just bringing in people to speak to teachers isn’t enough either. Consider the following when considering who and how to bring in experts to support teachers as you craft your professional development plans:
- Consider a Former or Current Practitioner. Leaders are often enamored with folks, particularly university professors whose work on content and/or instruction is renowned. However, I’ve noticed over the years that folks who’ve never taught or at least worked with teachers, do a poor job translating this to practical usage in the classroom (preparation and implementation). It’s not necessarily their fault… These folks are researchers NOT practitioners. Plan on bringing in folks who have experience teaching or experience working with teachers. This will help with relaying research and knowledge to teachers. It’s not that teachers aren’t smart enough to decode empirical data and unpacking the implications… but teachers simply need to know how to use that info to be better.
- Consider a Culturally Responsive Expert in Their Content Area. This is critical because teachers need experts who can (1) teach teachers more about their content, no matter the content area, and (2) provide tips for and modeling how to deliver the knowledge. Again, this is imperative. A content expert that can provide support in these areas (and it may be two individuals—one for knowledge and the other for delivery) is invaluable for teachers. For example, as a history teacher, there is so much more unearthed history to learn or current knowledge to be reconsidered. I need the time and space to sift through that intellectual work and the leadership in those areas to help me make sense of that information… as well as help in translating those things into an actual articulation of it to students. That’s true for teachers in any content area. Throw in the cultural and racial realities of our students and we need someone who can help educators wade those waters also. Unless you hired someone, who can do that for every content area at all age groups, that person is likely outside of our school and/or district.
- Consider a Master teacher/instructor; specifically, someone who teaches Black children. This person may not be a traditional academic at a university. It can be, but you’ll really have to search. More than likely, this is a late career or retired Black educator. Having Black master teacher is important because the data shows us that even white students report having better interactions (and a preference for) Black teachers versus white teachers. A master teacher is one who has the ability to relay and relate content to students in a way that meets the learning style needs of students in an engaging way. It’s because of their presence as a teacher, their level of excitement, their content knowledge, their versatility as a deliverer of instruction and their outside the box thinking. They’re a master teacher because of their understanding of history, culture, politics, nature, and human relationships. Again, these folks don’t reside at the university. They likely reside in the community. It’ll require leaders to reach out amongst the community; network within the community to find those master teachers – to bring them into the school. Some work in other districts or are retired from education. These are critical resources vital to supporting teachers. Make it your business to invite them to your community circles to teach your teachers.
These are just a few tips to support professional development work for the new year. Without a focus on these areas, without incorporating these specified experts, the school year will move forward, but not as intentionally as it could.