If you're a principal at a K-12 school, you've probably experienced some reluctance from your teaching staff about participating in professional development (PD). This blog post offers five ideas for how you can turn their hesitation into excitement.
PD is Fun! Right?
As a principal, part of your job is making sure that your teachers complete their professional development requirements, staying up to date on the newest advances in the education field. However, you've probably noticed that teachers typically don't get too excited about the prospect of taking valuable time away from their day-to-day work to do PD. Here are our best tips for how you can encourage your teachers to feel excited about professional development, rather than the more common sense of obligation.
1. Address the Real Value of PD
After a few years in the field, professional development can start to feel like just another part of the ongoing hard work that characterizes the teaching profession. That feeling most often manifests itself as apathy, even disdain.
As principal, the best way to fight that feeling is to remind your teaching staff of the value of professional development. After all, continuing to teach year after year without learning anything new or adapting to changes in the educational field is a recipe for disaster. Students aren't the only ones in the school equation who need to grow and progress - teachers, too, should strive for improvement and lifelong learning. Whether you choose to communicate this information through a quick email, a short meeting, an inspirational video, or other form, communicating it at all will have a noticeable effect on your staff's attitude to PD.
Think of this approach as a pep talk of sorts. We can all use one every so often.
2. Make PD Experiences Engaging
One possible reason why teachers might not want to bother with professional development is if the PD experiences they've had in the past have been boring or, even worse, unhelpful. To combat this attitude, make an effort to establish new expectations by offering PD that is engaging and that the value of which can't be denied.
Instead of having your teachers suffer through a monotonous lecture, consider these principal-driven options for ways to make PD more engaging:
- Allowing teachers to choose or vote for the year's PD topic
- Introducing hands-on activities and demos
- Incorporating conversations among colleagues in the PD session, thereby encouraging teachers to learn from one another
- Playing games and telling stories, keeping the energy light
3. Make PD Sessions Quick
Another thing that teachers dread are long PD sessions that interfere with their already busy schedules. There's an easy way to avoid this problem: put a time cap on PD sessions, one that can be determined in advance as appropriate for that particular session's structure. Try to avoid holding your teachers hostage for too many hours at once and instead let them incorporate the professional development topics in their own classrooms on their own time. Tell your staff ahead of time that ''this PD session will only take an hour'' and allow them to hold the principal accountable for a change.
4. Offer a Variety of PD Options
Another way to make professional development more appealing to your teaching staff is to offer them several different options for what they might learn. Thus, they'll able to pick the topic that would be the best fit for them and their students, increasing the chances that they'll be interested in and actually implement new instructional strategies that will be helpful and lasting.
Some relevant options include:
- Blended learning
- The ''maker movement''
- Brain-based teaching
- Teaching the ''whole child''
- Higher-order thinking skills
5. Reward PD Participants
Finally, we suggest that you consider rewarding your teachers for participating in and implementing professional development. Sure, PD is a part of their job, but it can also be a bit of a pain, meaning that praising teachers for their continued involvement can be key to maintaining their engagement. Even if the reward is something as small as ordering lunch for the session, it'll be sure to make the PD experience a more positive one. After all, we're all happier and more willing to participate in an event when we've got a full belly, even principals.
For more information and resources about professional development, check out this Study.com index.