Your children are home for the day, but school is in session for teachers. Why? Because it’s a professional development day, and today plays a key role in making sure your school’s teachers never stop learning.
Professional development helps your child’s teacher stay current in their profession. One experienced education policy professional, Emily Hassel, defined professional development as, “the process of improving staff skills and competencies needed to produce outstanding educational results for students.”
Because the professional development (PD) of teachers impacts the educational success of your children, it is important to know what goes on during those days when the school parking lot is full but the kids are home.
Professional development — learning about learning
Although the number of school days and instructional hours varies from state to state, professional days are built into your district’s school calendar so the students don’t end up missing any school days.
Here are some answers to common questions asked about Professional Development Days:
Why is time off taken during the school year for professional development?
While parents may sigh at the addition of half-days for professional development, it makes sense that skills and technique development occur during the school day. Although it means that parents may have to find childcare for the day, it’s best that training courses, focus sessions, and other skill developments occur during the professional working day when teachers are most likely to gain insight from their experience. If you think about it, the skill development in a corporate environment usually takes place during the normal work week, too -- rarely on weekends or after hours.
Why do PD days happen near holiday breaks?
The addition of professional development time near a holiday break or the end of term is not a coincidence. PD is included in the school schedule as a result of negotiations between teachers and the school district. For many districts, it makes sense to schedule development time when testing is concluded, or right before a break begins and instructional time is winding down. Other variations include PD time before the school year starts, or after school — which all depends on the teaching contracts in your school district.
Whether it is called staff development, continuing education, or a teacher work day, PD can include a wide variety of general and specialized training, depending on the needs and interests of a teacher or their school district. Some types of professional development include:
Development or enhancement of technical skills: Educational technology is booming. On a district level, and in the individual classroom, technology helps teachers to communicate, instruct, and educationally support your child. By learning to use new technology, teachers can develop core instructional skills along with analytical capabilities that allow them to better assess performance and meet curricular requirements more quickly and creatively. Basic skills using “smart” devices are a must in classrooms filled with students who are often adept with new technology.
Subject matter development: Staying current in their chosen area of study benefits your child’s teacher and the school district. Research and discovery continue to advance in all fields and it is to your child’s advantage to know their teacher is a reliable source of current information.
Teaching techniques: Developments in teaching methods are a hot topic of professional development. PD offers teachers the opportunity to learn, experience, and practice new teaching methods and strategies in order to provide an enriched classroom experience.
Team learning: Developing learning communities within a school, a school district, or across a region, is an important means of disseminating information, engaging in creative problem-solving, and aligning a school district to regional or state curricula requirements. Grade-level or subject area teams offer opportunities for mentoring, discussion of new skills or ideas, and creating coherent teaching plans.
Certification: PD is often used to obtain, or qualify to renew, specialized teaching certifications.
Well-designed personal development increases the capability of teachers to respond to the unique educational needs and interests of your child. Professional development for teachers means your child gets the most from their educational experience.