August 15, 2014

Being a teacher doesn’t mean you stop learning

At about 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon, 145 Career Orientation Program fifth-grade students are walking down the staircase one last time after a full week at the Tiger Woods Learning Center (TWLC). As previously practiced, students are directed to exit the Learning Center, locate their class and line up behind their teacher before entering the bus. Only this time is different: there are no teachers to be found outside.

Five days earlier on Monday morning, six visiting teachers hustle their students into the Learning Center, reminding them to follow directions, be good students and to enjoy their week. Unsure of what their staff development week will be like, the teachers politely say “Good Morning” and go about their business as they are directed into their own classroom at the end of the hallway. As they greet other visiting teachers from different schools, the conversations grow louder as they settle in for coffee. No one has a clue what they’ll be doing this week. As a veteran teacher of the Learning Center, my biggest priority is to give visiting teachers the best TWLC experience ever!

Teachers are bombarded with, well, teaching! Not to forget that classroom management, grading, keeping test scores up, exploring new curricula and learning new teaching strategies are all part of their daily schedules. Teachers value their time in the classroom. How can I make their weeklong experience at the Learning Center GREAT? Here’s the value I see in taking time out for staff development:

Learn from the expert: The excitement of teaching the same content year after year can sometimes be lost between the lines of a student’s textbook. Providing teachers with a new perspective can give them the boost and motivation to deliver the same material in a different way, and increase student engagement and witness student achievement.

Collaboration: Teachers may work together, but how many of them really have the time to ‘talk?’ Giving teachers the time to share best practices, solve classroom challenges and learn new teaching strategies is the best remedy for any situation. 

Time to reflect: Bell rings, teach, P.E., lunchtime, student assembly, parent conference, repeat. There is really no time to pause, breathe and reflect. Staff development provides time to think of your successes, challenges, strengths and to simply recharge.   

Support: Ongoing support is the key to any success. Learning side by side with an expert is one thing, but having to put their new skills to work in front of a classroom full of eager learning students can sometimes be overwhelming. Offering support beyond training can ensure effective teaching when delivering new information, skills or tools to the classroom.

Take on the role of the student: Sit back, relax and let someone be in charge for once. Besides taking in great information, watching someone else teach can give you insight on various classroom management strategies. Being in a different environment without the daily stresses of the classroom provides teachers a healthy atmosphere to learn and exchange ideas.

As students wait patiently for their teachers to arrive, I glance at the clock in my classroom and notice that our time together has come to an end. Teachers are discussing the new concepts and ideas they have discovered during their time at the Learning Center as we say our goodbyes. Teachers walk down the staircase one last time, feeling energized and motivated while bringing a new outlook to their classrooms.