For those on the fence about PD, here are just some of the amazing benefits of vigorous, focused professional development:
Sets You Up for Success
The teaching discipline is constantly changing, as is the language surrounding it. If you’re not staying current with the new language, the new tools, you will not be seen as someone who should be given more responsibilities, more prominence in a program.
Expands Knowledge Base
To your students, you are the subject matter expert. While it’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally say, “I don’t know! I’ll have to look that up and get back to you!” you don’t want to have to do it all the time, or you will begin to erode your own credibility with your students. Each time you have the answer to one of those questions, you add a brick in the mansion that is your ethos.
Speaking from a place of authority gives us the confidence to stand up in a room full of people and dispense our knowledge and encourage them to build their own knowledge base. If you’ve attended a good professional development session, you know the feeling of exhilaration that comes from taking new information and applying it directly to your classroom only to see improved results. Think of the classroom as your test. PD is the stellar study group that gets you ready to ace that test.
Professional development is one of the best ways to get to know your fellow teachers in a low-stress environment. Networking is as important to teachers as it is in any other profession. They may have information or connections that help you do your job better! Perhaps someone in that workshop knows a community member who might be a useful connection for your classroom. Veteran teachers are also great about sharing their resources and their experiences.
Helps Teachers Set and Achieve Goals
PD can help us identify specific areas in our teaching that we are less comfortable with and create a plan to increase our effectiveness. For instance, if we know we are not being thorough enough with our assessment, we can target that area for professional development. If we’d like to improve our content delivery or try a flipped classroom, we can learn about it and try it.
Improves Job Satisfaction
Did you know that almost 50% of new teachers leave the profession within 5 years of their start date? Research indicates that this is overwhelmingly due to the inadequate support and supervision they experience. Most only had student teaching and then bam! Their own classroom. This is clearly not enough to create the kind of nurturing environment teachers need to fill their tanks so they can in turn nurture others. There is tremendous satisfaction in feeling like you are making a difference. It’s my experience that most teachers feel they were “called” to teaching, that they have a strong desire to make the world a better place by helping their students maximize their potential. If this is your motivation, how unhappy would you be if you felt you were inadequate at it? Conversely, those teachers who feel they are impactful express tremendous satisfaction with what they do (even if they wish they made more money!).
Puts You In the Role of Student
This is crucial for staying connected to the learning experience. It can be isolating to stay only in the role of teacher, authority figure, without ever going around to the other side of the desk. PD asks us to put down our protections and take the risk of learning and trying and possibly failing at something new, the precise behavior we want from our students. It truly helps to experience regularly how vulnerable that can make you feel.
Improves Student Outcomes
According to a Queens University study, students performed 21% better on end-of-year exams in classrooms where the teachers had their National Board Certification. Whether that’s a function of ambitious teachers who are constantly seeking new strategies or the confidence that the continual growth gives them in the classroom is unclear, but the outcome is not. Those who are constantly growing are building better environments for students.