What's the Best Professional Development for New Teachers?
It was fun to read your last post on The Importance of Mentors and Meaningful Professional Development where you shared some interesting details on how you've developed your practice.
That was important because I observe you as such a confident new teacher, but I know that you still have areas where you want to grow! Interesting how you spoke about the mentors that you've had and the roles they've played. Your joke about finding a mentor on an eHarmony type site isn't such a bad idea. I actually started a New Teacher Mentoring Project in 2011 after speaking at an online conference. At the conference, new teachers shared that they were lacking mentors in their buildings or in their districts that they could work with so I created a "virtual mentoring" opportunity on my website. A place where new teachers could connect with experienced teachers who are willing to mentor them virtually! To date, there are 174 mentors willing to support new teachers. You can read all about it here.
I share this with you because I agree that mentoring matters. When new teachers are left alone without opportunities for mentorship they simply will not be as successful as they could be. And every new teacher deserves the chance to connect with someone that will come alongside them and be that coach that pulls them forward! (I like pull, rather than push...more about that in another post.)
A mentor can do a lot in terms of offering supportive resources to a new teacher. But inevitably professional development is going to be something that new teachers are going to be expected to participate in. When we look at professional development and the opportunities it can provide a new teacher it's critical that we give them a voice to be able to receive the support and actual hands-on training that they're looking for. (But ofen this is not the case, right?)
This brings me to the question that you asked in last week's post: Where are some other places, organizations, or conferences that are out there that offer meaningful professional development? I want to share three simple suggestions on ways to provide the best kind of professional development for new teachers:
- PD that's a Choice-All too often new teachers are given professional development that they never had a voice in selecting. They are told to attend workshops around particular content areas and yet those very workshops might be things that they just don't need. My recommendation would be let your new teachers fill out a needs assessment. Give them options to choose the things that they really need support in. Let them have the say about what they need when they need it, and how they would like to receive it. Let's stop assuming that we know what's best for a new teacher and let's give them a choice in selecting their own professional development.
- PD that's like an Edcamp- Edcamps happen all throughout the year and around the world. They are a powerful learning tool because they are teacher driven and teacher-led. Teachers and often administrators convene around the country in a specific place in their state and gather to discuss openly and without judgment the things that matter most to them. When you're providing staff development for a new teacher set it up like an Edcamp! You can read all about it here. As you design the day of training, set up the PD room space so that teachers can travel to different rooms at different times to attend different sessions where they can learn, talk and engage in conversations about the topics that matter to them. Maybe even select some new teachers who are ready to lead the sessions so that others can see that what they have to say and share matters. You'll be surprised at how much more powerful this kind of PD can be as opposed to the traditional "sit-and-get".
- Online PD and Edcamps- Lastly to answer your question more directly Christine, online workshops and actual Edcamps are some of the best professional development that a new teacher can receive. On any given week you can find online workshops that are free that provide support or training and resources virtually for a new teacher. SimpleK12 is one of the best resources that provide free webinars during the week and on weekends for teachers. Their mantra is "PD in your PJs" and is highly popular not only around the country but around the world. Attending an actual Edcamp is also one of my top choices for professional development that a new teacher should attend. As I mentioned above you can set up a professional development at your school to "act" like an ed camp, but attending an "actual" Edcamp is life-changing. Here is a link where you can find Edcamps that are happening all around the country and around the world https://www.edcamp.org/ One of the best ways that new teachers will benefit from in attending an Edcamp is to go with a buddy! I would never suggest that a new teacher head out to an Edcamp alone, but with a mentor or teammates, it will make for a day that's meaningful and fun. All attendees will come back with loads of ideas, connections, and resources to be able to apply the next teaching day. It's a MUST for any teacher, but especially for a new teacher who wants to take charge of their own learning, and who doesn't want to do that!
So Christine with all that being said, what's next on the agenda for your teaching year? More PD? Just kidding, *wink-wink* but really, I know it's getting close to the end of school but what kinds of things are you still planning to be able to finish the year strong with your kiddos?
Can't wait to hear from you!