Professional development is an essential part of our job as educators. Engaging in professional development will foster benefits that affect not just educators, but everyone they interact with on the job. This will help build relationships between colleagues, parents, and children. But, how do we provide professional development for educators that actually gets them excited about learning and applying new skills?
1. Be creative and have fun
Professional development is important, but it doesn’t have to be intensely serious. Do not give a traditional bulleted agenda and let the day run as usual. If you are going to provide a full day for professional development, break up the routine with some interesting ideas. Think of creative ways to introduce professional development opportunities to educators. Scavenger hunts. Brain breaks. Physical activity. These types of events will help break up the monotony of a traditional day of PD. For example, send teachers on a scavenger hunt throughout the building to complete various tasks. The first person who wins gets some sort of fun reward (small gift card or favorite snack) and is also responsible for choosing the next activity from a list of a few options.
After engaging in a professional development session of maybe 1-2 hours, have educators go to a classroom to enjoy a brain break. A great practice would be for educators to participate in brain breaks within their own classrooms. This type of modeling and participation is a part of professional development that has immediate application for an educator.
Physical activity is another great way to be creative. Maybe you encourage educators to take a walk or engage in a quick game outside to help improve concentration and attention before coming back to engage in some learning opportunities. Remember, a day of professional development does not have to take place in one setting, all while sitting!
2. Encourage teambuilding through the professional development activities
It is important to remember that educators are part of a team. Sometimes they get so caught up in classroom responsibilities they forget they have supportive colleagues who are very much experiencing the same highs and lows as them. Each individual has their own special insight which is incredibly valuable to share with the team. Professional development can remind educators they are not alone. Collaborating will boost morale and help build connections within the group.
After engaging in a professional development course such as the ones offered by HiMama Academy, encourage educators to present their findings for the good of the group. Participating in a think-pair-share will help them discuss what they have learned and reflect with someone else. Having conversations about PD will make engagement meaningful. Encourage educators to record and reflect on their favorite professional development courses each month on a shared document that everyone has access to. Educators can then read reviews of courses to help choose their own PD opportunities that they can be sure will be beneficial and applicable.
3. Build professional development into consistent routines for educators
Remember that professional development does not just address one topic. PD can address many needs of an early childhood educator. Flexible professional development opportunities can make it easier to include bite-sized training and courses into weekly or monthly responsibilities. HiMama Academy can assist in finding options that can be embedded into weekly staff meetings or team planning. Carving out space and providing time each week for teachers to partake in courses, conversation, or training will help educators understand the immense value of engaging in professional development.
When a center can ensure every educator will be given time to dedicate to their growing and learning as an educator, they will take the time given to find professional development that they enjoy. Maybe an educator fills out a self-reflection every month and part of that reflection includes what professional development they are currently engaging with. When you allow breathing room around PD by removing the burden of trying to fit it into an already busy schedule, you will find that investment will be authentic. If every educator is offered one day a month or 30 minutes a week to dive into a course or new material, professional development will become the expectation and not the exception.
Professional development can be a useful tool to bring teams together as they work on being better educators. Try placing value on the practice of professional development by encouraging it in creative ways that encourage teambuilding and a shared vision. Providing time to work on professional development and building it into their routine will help these wonderful educators reach their professional goals and create a healthier and happier work environment for all.