One of the things I keep in mind when developing PD for teachers is to start at the beginning. This isn’t the beginning of the year, the Training Period Evaluation, and it’s definitely not the Annual Evaluation. It’s the first touch a teacher has with my organization.
As the hiring manager for classroom teachers, I first “meet” a teacher when reading her submission for employment. I ask:
- What does her cover letter say about her?
- What does her work history tell me?
- Do her qualifications match the requirements for the position?
- What kind of interactions will she foster with the children in our program?
- How has she demonstrated growth over her various positions?
Before a face-to-face interview, I develop a good sense of who this person is so that when we meet I can zero in on fit and begin discovering how she learns and grows.
Remember, a prospective teacher is getting her first impression of what you, as an employer and program, can offer her. Too often, we think that a candidate must sell herself to us, but this is just as much a recruitment game if we want to get the very best teachers on our staff.
A prospective teacher is looking at the types of support and growth she can expect when working for your organization. The questions you ask and discussions you foster during an interview indicate your ability to listen and promote the candidate’s growth. This is the time to set the stage for an open forum of information sharing and send the message “what you have to say is important.”
Day One and Beyond
Once you’ve hired the best, you have to focus on keeping the teacher motivated and engaged. This starts on day one. New teachers often walk into a functioning classroom where peers and children are already comfortable in the routine and flow of the daily schedule. Preparing a new teacher for her entrance into a classroom is personal and must take into account her previous experience. Scaffolding the process allows a teacher to progress as she gains confidence. The ongoing support process might include some of these steps:
- Opportunities to shadow a veteran teacher
- Moving into the classroom team in an area where she is confident
- Partnering with a mentor/coach
- Frequent meetings with her supervisor for feedback and an opportunity to ask questions
- Reflection and participation in creating her on-going plan for full participation in the position
- Self-study through available resources
The purpose of this professional development support is to create an environment where teachers have the understanding and confidence to implement supportive strategies resulting in positive outcomes. As adults we take our learning styles with us throughout our lives. By taking the time to find out what teachers need and how they learn, targeted PD opportunities become an efficient method of expanding and refining a teacher’s practice over time. Teachers become more aware and in control of their learning and progress.