By Craig Perrier, Guest Contributor
This summer will be like none other we have experienced. Teacher professional development plans, if they have not been canceled, have most likely been restructured to meet the guidelines related to COVID-19. Likewise, the focus of these experiences has (hopefully) shifted or expanded their scope in order to support teachers, students, and communities’ effective cooperation on topics regarding race, inclusivity, power, and justice. As school priorities transition, it is incumbent upon professional development providers to join in this teacher training evolution and assess how their programs are supporting educators to be successful.
The changes to teaching and learning next year will be dramatic and occur quickly. In turn, professional development must emphasize “usable experiences” in ways that providers may not have considered or offered in the past. Hyper-specialization of experiences will be frustrating for educators who will question the time spent on these siloed events. Alternatively, teacher professional development that can “connect the dots” in education’s constellation of demands will be the ones most valued.
As you review your teacher training program, all of the four imperatives below should be explicit aspects of your professional development offering. Without their presence, you run the risk of being irrelevant or illegitimate when it comes to the changing landscape of education.
- Blended and Online Teaching and Learning: School will have an enhanced digital experience next year and beyond. One major mistake in this transition is trying to replicate in full a traditional class to a digital one. The pedagogy is different and therefore the experiences are different. To what extent does your program support teachers to be better blended and online instructors?
- Anti-bias and Anti-hate Education: When teachers believe that all students can succeed and that it is their job to facilitate that success, gaps of achievement and success begin to narrow and disappear. Likewise, a curriculum that emphasizes student agency and the critical analysis of social constructs is a relevant curriculum. In what ways does your program make teaching a transformative experience that impacts the community and society?
- Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): Student-teacher and student-student relationships matter. A classroom that is supportive and empathetic matters. A learning environment where student voice and well –being matters. How does your program empower teachers to develop this part of their expertise?
- Inquiry-Based Education: Teachers who don’t provide students the opportunity to construct their understanding of content by using or developing questions that are relevant to their lives are teaching for democracy. How does your program support student thinking, research, and application of their knowledge?
How these imperatives are enacted in your teacher professional development program will depend, of course, on the school’s context. So, asking a district about their current vision, goals, and work on each of these topics are important questions to ask and details to understand. What’s more, if they haven’t taken their first steps along any of these paths, your organization may be the catalyst and needed support. Your ability to integrate these topics into your teacher training program sends the message that you know that schools are being asked to do more and that you can do more to support them. Have those conversations, evolve your programs, and your teacher professional development becomes immediately more usable.