Effective Learning and Teacher Choice

I’m a first-generation educator in my family and I really love what I do. I have been teaching Fine Art for a virtual academy for the past 2 years. And truthfully, it restored my love for teaching – more on that later. I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia with a passion for artmaking. Inspiration came from museum visits, performing arts, and the love of my family. City people live close within neighborhoods, so I never felt like an only child. It was my urban upbringing that established my love for people, art, and education.

All my life I learned in a traditional, brick and mortar setting. I attended Catholic school in the city, and public school in South Jersey.  I excelled in sports, clubs, and student government; but it was in academics that I always seemed to struggle. Despite the hurdles, my passion to teach led me to graduate from Rowan University with a BA in Art Education. I was excited to begin this new journey and pursue my professional goals.

Teacher Support
It’s true what they say: nothing prepares a teacher more than hands on experience. In retrospect, I went into teaching with blind confidence and had no idea how tough it really was. I have worked in paraprofessional, early childcare, substitute teaching, first- and secondary education. I have taught traditionally, remotely, even from a utility cart amid the pandemic. The evidence and my experience are clear: we need to support new teachers early and often.

From my research of a Skillwork article, I can see it is more cost-effective for a school or district to keep an employee rather than hiring a new one.  As the need for teachers continues to grow, school leaders must make every effort to keep teachers who have invested time and money into earning a teaching degree.

There are few things in education that trump the importance of effective PD. Far too often, unfortunately, I would sit through programs that did not apply to my subject or that PD was restricted that included accessibility, lack of resources, and representation.

Change in Learning
In 2020, when everything shut down and global education shifted to online, something unintended occurred – me, and teachers alike, were given a taste of online professional development and now we want more. The newfound luxury of choosing what I learned, when I learned, and how I learned felt most inspiring.

Recently, I was invited to provide feedback to the Stride Professional Development Center (SPDC). My experience has been nothing short of delightful! During my time on the site, I was able to learn from experienced educators on topics that applied to me. I was able to create a personalized profile which included my clock-hour certificates, and this feature sparked my motivation to continue learning.

Classroom cultureTargeted instruction, and Effective meetings were among the courses that encouraged careful reflection.  Others – Hip-Hop for ChangeTrauma-informed classrooms, and Self-care for Teachers – offered a new perspective that was once lacking in traditional trainings.

What’s more, new teachers score a year’s membership for free!  Yes – for free! 

The Future
Stop for a minute and think about it this way – teachers are asked to provide individualized instruction for students, so why are schools hesitant to adopt this method for teacher professional development?  It just makes sense that the answer is yes.

One thing is certain: effective professional development is in demand. I believe traditional methods limit teacher choice and often support cursory reflections. I recall listening to an episode of “What I Want to Know” with Bill Daggett. In this podcast, Daggett delineates between “forward thinking leaders and future thinking leaders – schools must adopt a more future-thinking mindset to support its stakeholders.”   

I think the SPDC offers a fresh opportunity for teachers to own their learning, and this approach to professional development should inspire school leaders to follow suit. 

We must remember that teachers are learners too; so, embrace the fact that you do not know it all – nor can you do it all.  Simultaneously, choose ways that promote and celebrate small successes.  Inspire scholars to follow your example because learning is leading.

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