A Guest Blog Post by Chrissy DeBono
Chrissy DeBono is an Advanced Math Teacher at Cottonwood Elementary in the Vail School District and a 2017 Arizona Teacher of the Year Ambassador for Excellence.
The most important piece of the equation in student learning is the teacher. At the heart of amazing, dedicated educators is the desire to continue to learn and grow along with students. Professional development (PD) is the most crucial component in advancing and continuing a teacher’s desire to learn and grow and directly correlates to student achievement and growth.
I’ve been in front of a classroom of students for 11 years and I would never dare say I have all the answers.
I, like many others, spend countless hours during the summer months browsing Pinterest to find the most engaging lessons and scrolling through educator forums for new twists in teaching concepts. I have seen the meme below and share the exact same thought.
But if only PD could be as simple as browsing ideas, testing them in the classroom, and deciding if they are keepers or not. I have sat through all types of professional development and know that to truly value the commitment and purpose of continual growth and student success PD promises, time must be top priority!
Effective professional development directly correlates with careful conception, planning, and implementation. Yet, in many schools, the implementation component is misunderstood.
Implementing carefully researched and planned strategies in the classroom takes time and becoming more familiar with new theories and protocols takes time. But time is precious in the life of a teacher so it’s no surprise the many educators currently respond to required PD hours with disdain. Educators understand the value of PD and appreciate the material, however, there needs to be the same understanding that implementation of said successful theories will be a process. Ensuring common planning periods for educators to collaborate, providing a safe environment where educators can take risks, and offering a sense of purpose and buy-in from staff when new trainings and programs are developed can alleviate feelings misunderstanding and overwhelm.
In short, PD is NOT an event that is just a piece of a puzzle of successful teaching; it is a process. Just like students do when they learn, educators are introduced to new concepts and skills and asked to apply learning to personal constructs, individual students, rigorous academic standards, and the social and emotional needs of the classroom (to name a few). Without opportunities to engage with new tools and training AND the time to work with colleagues to build community and support, the very essence of professional development is gone.
I believe– through intentional, focused PD, with adequate time to experiment– educators can further make lasting impacts on students and prepare to be the best teacher possible.