How to Show Appreciation for Teachers Through Meaningful Professional Development
It’s teacher appreciation week and thousands of students, parents, and community members are thanking educators for making a difference in their lives.
Teachers work tirelessly to deliver instruction and help every student succeed. They understand the importance of objective-driven lesson plans, differentiated learning, checking for mastery etc. However, many school districts struggle to uphold the same standards for effective professional development for teachers. One of the best ways we can show appreciation for our teachers is to listen to their needs, respect their time, and most of all, support them in the classroom by delivering meaningful professional development.
Professional development is often a source of frustration for teachers. A 2014 study conducted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that there is a large disconnect between a decision-maker’s intention for quality PD and the professional learning that teachers actually experience. While administrators often have the best intentions for delivering quality PD, there are steps they can take to ensure that teachers receive PD that is relevant, meaningful, and effective.
Here are three ways to improve professional development for educators and in turn, show appreciation for teachers’ time, feedback, and work in the classroom.
Listening to Teacher Needs
Many educators feel that PD is not relevant or tied to their goal of helping students learn. Teachers want relevant, interactive, and sustainable professional development offerings delivered by someone who understands their experience in the classroom and treats them as professionals (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and BCG, 2014.) School districts can put this feedback into action by including teachers in the PD planning process. School leaders can encourage teachers to share their experience in the classroom and provide feedback on the PD that they find most valuable. For example, one teacher may experience student behavior problems in the classroom while another teacher struggles with adjusting lesson plans. Rather than providing a one-size-fits-all PD offering, schools can provide PD that addresses specific issues that each teacher is facing to help them become more effective in the classroom.
Collaborative PD planning also provides a great opportunity to empower teachers to have a say in their growth and feel treated as a professional. This creates a sense of trust between school leaders and educators and a more friendly learning environment where teachers feel comfortable addressing their needs.
Respecting Their Time
There’s an important relationship between professional development and teacher absences. A 2014 study found that professional leave accounts for 20 percent of all teacher absences (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2014). When teachers leave the classroom to attend PD offerings that are not valuable, there is potential lost learning time and no benefit to the teacher or the students. Any time spent out of the classroom, should be used wisely. Schools can show teachers that they respect and value teachers’ time by offering PD courses that are meaningful and impactful. When professional development offerings are highly relevant and engaging, the teacher can come back to the classroom with stronger skills to deliver more effective instruction and positively impact student growth.
Supporting an educator in the classroom with PD should not be a guessing game. It’s important to understand an educator’s unique strengths and areas for improvement when planning PD. While one teacher may want to improve her math instruction skills, another may want to work on classroom management. Schools can also be more scientific about identifying a teacher’s learning need by using a tool like the Thrive Instructional Proficiency Inventory (IPI®). The IPI is a research-based tool that identifies a teacher’s strengths and areas for improvement within the four core competencies that matter most in teacher effectiveness. School leaders and teachers can use this information to create strategic PD plans that are customized for the individual.
Taking the time to understand and address each educator’s challenges is a great way to show teacher appreciation. Learn more about the research and technology behind the IPI that is helping school districts across the country deliver more relevant, valuable professional development.