This past week, I was given the opportunity to accompany my supervisor along with other members of the Billingsville family to the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project Institute. When I entered the classroom at Pinewood Elementary School, where this program was being held, I was enthralled with the opportunity. I was in a classroom with current educators and was about to gain insight on how to be an effective teacher. You must understand that, for me, being in this classroom was comparable to a child at a summer camp; I was just excited to be there and soak up all the knowledge and advice that I could. This was the first time I had participated in something characterized as professional development and I loved it. In my opinion, if a door opens for me to become better or learn more about something, why not enter?
The importance of complimenting a student was a concept constantly reiterated over the course of the week. For instance, if a teacher is noticing that a student is struggling with a specific task, such as taking productive notes on a book, the teacher should start the conversation with said student about such troubles with a compliment. Complimenting is a means for highlighting what a student is doing well, but it also is a way of offering them guidance on how to take the next steps towards improvement. Complimenting also might reinforce a positive atmosphere in the classroom, one in which students are more likely to listen and grow. I saw immediately how seemingly small steps can be taken by teachers in order to produce a big effect in the end.
Professional development is tool that should be used by all educators constantly throughout their careers because teachers are students too. In a world where new instructional practices are regularly being created, new forms of technology are being developed for optimal learning, and where the current educational system demands qualified, prepared, and successful teachers, it is imperative that teachers continue to grow and change with the times and ways. While there are requirements set in place for teachers to undergo some sort of professional development, I find it important to emphasize why it matters and how it influences individual schools. Participating in professional development is not only beneficial to the teacher but to the students as well. First off, when teachers and administrators are continuously working to develop their own knowledge and skills, they become a model for the students that learning is an important, useful, and life-long thing. Effective teaching is the result of study, reflection, practice, and perseverance. What I want to stress here, is that schools need to be places where both students and adults are learning.
So why are there often complaints about professional development? I think finding the right and most effective PD program is a decision that differs from school to school. Each school has different areas in need of improvement and will stand to gain more from a program targeted at those specific needs rather than an overarching, one-size-fits-all model program aimed at helping as many educators as possible when they all hail from such different classroom environments, schools, and communities. When Professional Development is viewed as useless than the teachers participating have nothing to gain. However, if professional development was sought after less for the purpose of fulfilling a requirement and more for the opportunity it brings to hone teaching skills, then would harness the potential to energize, assist, and inspire teachers and administrators to be the best they can be.