As we continue to look at ways to make US schools better, we have inevitably come to the time to chat about teacher training. At their core, teachers should be lifelong learners. They should be people who are constantly looking for new practice and want to find new ways to better engage students. It means teacher development and training will always have a place, but unfortunately because of the way it is constructed in most places, most teachers have a negative view on it. Let’s change that.
For positive change in this realm we need to keep two things in mind: incentives and finding tribes. To make PD and training really count, we need to incentivize teachers to do it. It should come as something naturally, but just like the kids, teachers have often been beat down with the poor experiences that they have had. Whether it be paid time or perks come with implementing strategies successfully, those incentives will bring a simple reason for teachers to join and may even bring some joy back to what they are doing.
The second big change drives more to the heart of the problem. Professional Development and training has been a one size fits all approach for years, and we have to change that by letting teachers find their tribe. What I mean by that, is you have to let them go in a strategy and pedagogy direction that fits them. If they are great at technology and that makes their class different, let them go that route. If they work well in collaborative planning, let them work on strategies to make that better. If they are PBL based, let them go with that tribe. Basically, if you let teachers go the way they are interested (and don’t force them), they are much more likely to take to that Professional Development and it does not feel like a chore. We should center things around that.
Of course with all of this, it does take a financial piece, and you have to look out for that return on investment. You have to make sure that teachers are partaking in things that will actually make them better. Why not make this return on investment goal longer term? Can we move past expecting things to change tomorrow or having teachers summarize what they learned, and can we have them reevaluate the experience in a year to see what actually made its way into their classroom pedagogy?
As you build out new plans for training and development just remember those two main things to drive to: incentivizing and finding their tribe. If you do that, you can make almost any PD work out for the better. Teachers are just like students so that everyone does the same thing and force just does not work. It’s time to think differently.