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How Professional Development Made Me a Better Teacher

opinion

Extra training and the support of professionals I respected helped me to become the kind of teacher I wanted to be and offered me access to resources I hadn't known existed.

Becoming a Better Teacher Through Professional Development

College prepared me to take charge of a classroom and relay information to my students. But professional development and peer review made me the teacher my class needed. Without the additional classes I received after leaving school, I would still be floundering, wondering why I wasn't getting through, and struggling without a community behind me.

The Long Way 'Round

College was a long and painful process for me. I spent almost two decades in school earning my degree and deciding what I wanted to do with my life. In between, I started a business, raised a family, switched majors, and learned how to care for chronically ill family members. It was a busy time, but I don't regret the extra effort. The education I received was priceless. My courses were well prepared and gave me the tools I needed to pursue a field that I loved. But there was still something missing when I helmed my first classroom.

The Right Classes Made the Difference

Teaching has always been a special joy for me, and I felt that my degree would give me all the skills I needed to be among the best my students would ever see.

Not quite.

Despite a good education and plenty of enthusiasm, I didn't seem to make the kind of connection with my students that I longed for. Each class was carefully planned, well-researched, and chocked full of fun activities and interesting information. I thought I would wow my students and keep them coming back for more.

Seminar

Not so much.

While my students were interested, and my delivery was good, I just didn't seem to be able to capture their curiosity. Despite my every attempt to be engaging, I couldn't get enough interest built around the lessons to make the classes shine.

Through my Childcare Association and the local Community College, I learned about a series of workshops designed to help teachers like me improve their skills. I thought they could teach me a few tricks to help my kiddos get the most out of each lesson I taught.

I signed up right away.

Critical Support

I took several classes through this local extension. They offered everything from organizing my business to CPR and classroom management. While a few mirrored what I already knew, most presented new information from the perspective of teachers who had decades of practical experience. These instructors had seen the concepts they were presenting in action. Their classes offered practical solutions for some of the issues I had experienced in my classroom.

On top of that, I could speak to other professionals about the creative ways they had found to connect with their students. This connection was hugely beneficial to me. I had special needs students for the first time and only theoretical experience in providing for them. Advice from teachers who knew the struggle helped to give my students the safe, enriching environment they deserved.

ShowOfSupport

What's more, these instructors helped me build a critical support system, which I had been lacking before. I had spent years working largely in isolation, and it was exhausting. I hadn't realized how much I needed the comfort and counsel of others who shared my fears and frustrations. I also hadn't realized how much my students would benefit from that support as well.

Knowing I was not alone in some of the more frustrating aspects of teaching was enough to help bolster my flagging enthusiasm on tough days.

My Students Were the Real Winners

In the end, my students were the ones who really benefitted from the skills I gained and the support I now had. I was happier, better prepared, and had practical tricks to try when the lesson didn't seem to be landing in the way I had hoped.

I could review my classes and see where I had too much for them to absorb, where they might enjoy more information, and when I needed to change tack to keep them engaged and interested in the plan. I was delivering the same information, but they were getting more out of it.

HappyMaleStudent

My charges were happier to engage in class, and I was happier to teach. Because of these changes, we had a happier classroom. My students and I had better interactions and could build solid bonds that made learning fun and more rewarding for everyone.

I didn't think I could afford the extra time when I began with my Professional Development courses. By the time I had completed a few, I felt it was one of the best investments of my career. I will forever be grateful to the educators who took the time to make me a better teacher and give my students the best chance of success.

By Patricia Willis
January 2017
opinion professional development

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