- A Playbook for Building Common Core Support Among Teachers - October 8, 2014
- Shifting Our Mindset Around Teacher Evaluations - September 3, 2014
- A Profession for My Generation - August 19, 2014
- The Difference Between Calculation and Mathematics - August 5, 2014
- Four Little Tips to Transform Your Classroom - August 5, 2014
- Just the Facts: Charter High School Performance in Memphis, TN - July 30, 2014
- Tennessee Education's Perception Problem - July 9, 2014
- Irrational Fears Prevent Real Common Core Progress - June 30, 2014
- Performance Based Tests Take the Guesswork Out of Assessing - June 4, 2014
- Teaching and the Off-Season - May 27, 2014
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One of the best professional development (PD) opportunities I’ve been to was at an NCTM conference in St. Louis. I walked into a lecture hall and instead of rows upon rows of chairs, we were seated at tables of 8 with numerous mathematical manipulatives on them. These included marbles, graduated cylinders, chess pieces and even a balance beam. Over the next hour, the presenter walked us through several different math labs we could do with our kids. I walked out of there re-energized, feeling excited about the new found possibilities I could try out to inspire my kids!
I’ve been to numerous PDs over the past few years and the quality has been highly varied. But those that I’ve found most impactful typically include several things. First, they give teachers specific strategies to try in their classrooms. Second, the strategies they give can be implemented immediately. Third, they give specific examples of those strategies in action and allow teachers the opportunity to actually practice those strategies to see how they will work out in their classrooms whether through role play or other means. Fourth, they are almost always educator led. I credit PDs that contain these components with transforming the way I conduct my classroom.
Good quality PD is vital for teachers working in high-needs schools as well. Regardless of their quality, teachers self report that many believe they do not possess the training or experience to jump directly into a role in these schools, regardless of whether it is their first or tenth year teaching. Additionally, many teachers, including those teaching in high-needs schools, report receiving professional development that they do not believe is helpful to addressing the requirements of a high-needs school.
Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case when I speak with my colleagues working across Memphis. PD is seen as ineffective, irrelevant and all in all a waste of precious time. With this in mind, it is absolutely vital that we have an effective professional development system in place to retain our irreplaceable teachers and grow our new teachers into irreplaceable educators in Memphis.
A successful system to improve professional development should focus on teacher driven professional development that is driven by the experience of individual teachers. This professional development should use student data to drive conversations, ask teachers to reflect on their classroom practices and include individual or group coaching from other teachers. Such a system also should provide new teachers with a strong mentor teacher to support them as they navigate the difficult environment of a high-need school.
As a bonus, successful implementation of this policy will likely have a high impact on retaining irreplaceables in high-need schools. Over 81 percent of teachers agree that meaningful professional development is very important to retaining teachers. If teachers are provided these opportunities to grow and improve their practice as well as learn how to better close the achievement gap in their high-needs schools, they are less likely to see outside opportunities as more desirable and remain where they are. In other words, if we set our educators up for success, we’re more likely to see them stay.
Additionally, offering irreplaceables the opportunity to work with their colleagues to help them improve their practice is an intriguing way to offer irreplaceables additional opportunities for leadership. Many irreplaceables continually seek out new challenges, which, according to The New Teacher Project, is one reason why they leave the profession. If we can provide these opportunities education, we would cater to these desires and make the classroom a more desirable to these high achieving individuals.
The greatest challenge to strengthening our PD system in Memphis would be the cost and the manpower to implement it well. Based on my experience and the experience of my colleagues, it would require a comprehensive redesign of the existing PD system. Second, we would need to be able to first identify our irreplaceables and train them in how to provide effective PD. Third, we would need to do an extensive amount of research to determine what PD teachers need to increase their effectiveness. Fourth, it would require a significant investment in a monitoring system to track the impact of targeted PD to ensure it is having its intended effect. But given the potential upside, we can't afford not to make a push for better targeted PD.
This post originally appeared on bluffcityed.com on 11/8/13[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]