Why Professional Development for Teachers Matters

As humans, one thing that we learn from our very first job is that we truly don’t know half of what we think we do when it comes to people, interactions and change. The age of our first job does make a bit of difference in the amount of learning but the unknown still lingers as we  assimilate.  Whether it is a babysitting job, a lifeguard, or even a cashier, the art of developing into a professional is a skill that defines itself with the company it sets in.

When we shift to adulthood, schooling has given us a few more tools in developing relationships key to job success. We learn what manipulation looks like, the role of leadership, and how collaboration feels with peers above and below our own age. We may even have home structures that strengthen this skill as we jump into workforces that carry a heavier load and larger pay grade.

Regardless of age, education, and career, each day of experience provides an opportunity for learning. Perfect days could be better, and mistakes prove that improvement is necessary. We may not always be the boss, but we understand the functions and roles of bosses while we question interactions between employers and employees. Our brain is relentlessly taking information in and shaping our actions and reactions. We are constantly developing as professionals.

Careers and Learning

In almost any job, training serves as a springboard to independence in the workplace. This comes in different shapes and sizes and promotes a proactive success plan for each person joining the team. In teaching, some adults have a field experience like student teaching, where they get to practice the techniques and skills attained with a mentor. Doctors go through residencies, while internships support other professional tracks. Even restaurants partner servers to watch and learn from one another so that customers experience consistency in delivery. After we have mastered training, residency or student teaching, we are sent on our way to fly, but we are developing professionals.

Workshops, Workshops, Workshops!

The learning has only begun for the teacher, as they can count on workshops and professional development sessions for the rest of their teaching career. The learning never stops, there is always a new fad in education, a cool trick or some initiative that the principal is implementing to develop the culture of the school. A teacher’s brain is being challenged and transformed year after year and for some, this can be really overwhelming. Just when the teacher has developed one piece of their classroom puzzle, another dial is turned for advancement in another feature.

What is Meaningful and What is Overload?

Can the amount of professional development be too much for teachers crafting their field? Some teachers argue yes, that they just want to get better at the specific things that they are trying to do in their own classrooms. They believe that the tools and training are too much with the responsibility already consuming them in their own land of lesson delivery.  Teachers who have been in the field for a while may enjoy learning information that they attain in professional development because they have been out of school for some time.  The professinoal development models new ideas and enhances a strong foundation that the teacher has been sculpting. On the other hand, teachers who have twenty (or more) years of experience may truly need fresh information since education has made so many changes in the last two decades with the digital implosion of the one-to-one classroom.  Just like the variety of teachers in the building, the variety of professional development offerings make implementation and growth a problem-solving exercise for district leaders. This is when a one-size-fits-all approach can have negative repercussions.  Nonetheless, like any job, in order to be our best version, we have to be open to development and discovery.

Time to Redefine Professional Development

Just as education and curriculum spiral in and out of new reform, the idea of promoting new learning must spiral and change for its audience. Teachers know some of what they don’t know, and teachers will spend more time engaging in the information that they think they can use to become better teachers. With that, the idea of workshops, professional development, and learning platforms must deepen as well.  The coined term differentiation, where teachers are expected to employ unique ways of teaching and engagement for all of the different learners in their classroom should also mirror what professional development they are participating in a teacher-learners.

We are always developing professionals, no matter the field. Babysitters learn how to respond to different children through experience and time. Restaurant servers master the craft of communication, and doctors read and explore technology to cure patients each and every day. Professional Development does matter, but it can come in different sizes, shapes, deliveries, and options. Workshops can be a one-stop shop, but they don’t have to be. Teachers need to find comfort that learning never stops and that the newest trend shared at a staff meeting is simply that, something to be shared to help us be the best version of our teacher self that we can be.