By Andrew Hawk
Has there ever been a more publicized love-hate relationship than the one that exists between teachers and professional development? On the one hand, teachers are often lifelong learners who enjoy acquiring new knowledge. On the other hand, yearly state-mandated professional development requirements can be exhausting and may contribute to teacher burnout. These mandates are often tied to renewing a teaching license.
For example, when I taught in West Virginia, teachers had to complete 18 hours of professional development per year. Now I’m a principal in Indiana, where we use professional growth points (PGPs). To renew a five-year license for five additional years, a person needs 90 PGPs. There are numerous ways people can earn these points, including completing trainings at the school level. Principals can award PGPs. I usually award one point for every hour of professional development.
The key is to space out professional development over time and not to wait until the last minute. A new and exciting trend that can help you do this is “micro professional development,” or micro PD. These mini lessons for teachers fit nicely at the end of staff meetings and usually last anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. I let micro PD minutes accumulate into hours and then award the points at the end of each quarter. Here are some ideas you might try if you want to integrate micro PD into your staff meetings.
Select Relevant Topics
The topics you decide to focus on must be relevant and interesting to your staff members. When I think of micro PD topics, I try to imagine the topics that are on the cutting edge of the education field. Professional journals and websites are great places to get ideas. Micro PD sessions need not focus only on teaching strategies. Methods of analyzing data are also appropriate topics. I always encourage my staff members to look for new ways to incorporate culturally relevant teaching. (This can be a recurring topic.)
Consider a Poll
Like school-age students, teachers enjoy having a voice in what they are learning. I recommend polling teachers at the beginning and in the middle of the school year to hear their ideas. This helps with teacher buy-in and engagement during the trainings.
Choose Your Main Points
Micro PD is all about focusing on and reinforcing several main points. It is as if you are taking a full training and condensing it into a study guide like Cliffs Notes. When you create a micro PD session, you need to be skilled at prioritizing information.
Use a Variety of Teaching Strategies
To keep this micro PD genuine and impactful, use a variety of teaching strategies. Don’t simply pass out an excerpt from an article and have participants read and discuss it. Watch short videos, experiment with phone apps, role-play classroom scenarios, and so on. Look for ways to nudge your staff members out of their comfort zones and teach them skills that are applicable to their roles at your school.
Let Teachers Take the Lead
At the beginning of the year, have all your teachers submit one or more topics on which they would be willing to lead a micro PD session. Do not let them avoid taking their turn. All your teachers have strengths in the classroom that they can share with their fellow staff members. Letting teachers be involved in leading the trainings is also a great way to build trust and promote teamwork.
Serialize the Trainings
Professional development sessions can last one or even two weeks. If you find yourself focused on a topic that is simply too big to condense into 15 minutes, consider serializing it. Just as Charles Dickens delivered his novels in installments, you can focus multiple consecutive trainings on one topic.
Do Not Rush
Think of micro PD versus regular PD as espresso versus regular coffee. Espresso has a stronger flavor and comes in a smaller size, but it contains the same amount of caffeine as regular coffee does. Planning a micro PD session is about capitalizing on the main points of a training, not speeding through a full training. If micro trainings are delivered effectively, they will spark interest in teachers to learn more about the topics on their own. Teachers should not feel rushed during the trainings.
Keep It Fun
We all know that students need to have some fun incorporated into their learning. Remember that adults need fun too. Look for creative ways to incorporate some fun into your micro PD sessions. Whatever your topic is, ask yourself if there is a way to infuse a little entertainment into the training. This might be challenging . . . for example, how do you make analyzing data fun? Hmm . . . what if grade-level teams had to describe the data as if they were a team of TV news anchors?
Stay healthy, everyone!
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for 18 years. He started as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. Andrew has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. Andrew has worked as a resource room teacher and also has taught in a self-contained classroom for students on the autism spectrum. In 2017, he earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, also from Western Governor’s University. This is Andrew’s first year as a building principal. He is the principal of an elementary school that houses kindergarten through fifth grades. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with this wife and two daughters.
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