As a former teacher, teacher leader, and teacher educator, I understand at my core the tremendous impact that a high-quality teacher can have on the lives of children and their families. But, I also know the deep feelings of frustration we often feel as teachers and leaders when we just cannot figure out to connect with, how to motivate, how to engage with those children within our classrooms that we are desperately trying to reach but just fail to figure out.
InterAct: A CLASS Summit returns on April 24-25, 2017 to Austin, Texas. For those of who don’t know, InterAct is Teachstone’s annual CLASS-user summit. It’s a place where education leaders can gather to network and discuss the challenges, successes, and stories about using the CLASS tool across the world.
At our recent 2016 InterAct CLASS Summit, we asked a group of educators to share their biggest difficulties in implementing professional development within their organizations. Despite the group’s diverse backgrounds, they reported similar challenges:
Uneven teacher skill sets
Planning and logistics
We're excited to introduce the next post in our four-post series discussing strategies to help with these common challenges.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: AN INVESTMENT IN OUR TEACHERS
As a former teacher and teacher educator, I deeply understand the tremendous impact that a high-quality teacher can have on the lives of children and their families. But I also understand how difficult the job of teaching can be every hour of every day of every week of every year. So many teachers enter and stay in the classroom without the ongoing professional development they need to stay current with research and strategies that can help them perform their craft to its fullest potential. Even those who are provided professional development by their school district or program often experience stale, “one and done” workshops that are not integrated into a larger learning curriculum and that are, at best, dry and uninspiring.
“Nearly half of all beginning teachers will leave their classrooms within five years, only to be replaced by another fresh-faced educator.”
Teacher turnover is a huge problem with costly effects. There are many reasons why retaining teachers is tough: low wages, lack of time and support to plan and individualize instruction, and a growing need for ongoing professional development (just to name a few). As the former director of a large university-based early child care center and a consultant to Head Start and Early Head Start programs throughout the Southeast United States, I had the opportunity to observe this revolving door of early childhood educators one too many times. I saw teachers enter their classrooms with the best of intentions and a high need for support.
What do you do when faced with a task that just seems daunting and overwhelming? What helps you feel ready to take on new challenges? Do you ask for help from others who have been there, done that? Seek advice from an expert? Well, when it comes to professional development, Teachstone is here to help. We have years of experience researching and finding solutions to the challenging task of providing teachers with meaningful and effective professional development.
Imagine sitting down beside a music student as he practices a new song. As a mentor, your role is to provide feedback to the student on how well he’s interpreted the piece, translated the notations into an audible melody, and literally used his fingers to create music as dictated by the sheet music.
Now consider this: How successful would you be as a mentor if you did not know how to read music?
When I was in middle school and high school, I frustrated teachers at every turn. I had plenty of ability but wasn’t motivated to put forth much effort and was the source of constant behavioral issues. I would trade stories with my friends, and it was clear that everyone knew I was as big a problem in the classroom. I always wondered, "Why do I never receive a referral when my friends often do?" I now realize the answer may have been in the mirror the whole time: my skin tone.
Yes, you read that correctly. The CLASS isn’t reliable in scientific terms. But, it is valid: you can count on the CLASS to measure what is predictive of positive developmental and academic outcomes for children, and it has been validated through more than a hundred studies. In research terms, however, tools aren’t reliable on their own. People can be trained to sufficient reliability with successful completion of CLASS observation training and reliability testing. To maintain high levels of reliability, it’s important to think about your own professional development plan to maintain the skills you recently acquired.
Long before my time developing online professional development for teachers, in my first year of teaching middle school, I received a gift I would never get again. My principal gave me one day and three rules: