Thursday, April 11, 2013

Invest in your staff

The only thing worse than training staff and having them leave is not training and having them stay.
-Henry Ford

Oh my goodness, how true is this quote?!  I always open the Exchange Everyday emails in the morning to find a nugget of inspiration and today was no exception.  There it was, staring back at me, the truth of why I do what I do!  I love children, don't get me wrong, but I think my true passion is working with other teachers to help them see themselves as teachers rather than glorified babysitters.  

No one pours themselves into schooling to obtain a degree in early childhood to be called a babysitter.  How demeaning!  No one would ever think to undermine the qualifications or credibility of a doctor or lawyer, so why do they do it with teachers?!  

Many of our funding agencies require us to send teachers to x-number of professional development workshops during the program year to meet the requirements.  I like to call these little chunks "drive-by-trainings."  These are the stupid make & take workshops where there is no real application or synthesis of information; you show up, you make something that's developmentally inappropriate and you go back to your program.  Maybe you got a handout.  It's probably in your car, under the seat, or wadded up in the door.  The likelihood of you saving that handout are slim (to none) and if you do, it's in a folder... somewhere.   Have you looked at in since the workshop?  Do I even need to ask this question?

I value professional development for what it's meant to be.  Development.  I want teachers to go to workshops and come back feeling empowered and excited.  I see this occasionally, but I truly believe it only happens when teachers are responsible for their own development, meaning they reflect on what they're doing in the classroom and what they'd like to strengthen.  Together, we identify workshops and conferences that might support the goal and then -- this is the kicker -- they go.

Yesterday, I did some reflecting (!!) on reflective supervision and what that should look like and one of the roadblocks that gets some of us directors is coverage.  "Well, I don't have coverage, so you can't go to that workshop you were supposed to attend."  This. Kills. Me.  I work really hard to plan ahead and block off those times so that this professional development time is protected and actually occurs.  We've been fortunate this year (knock on wood) and we've found some great workshops and we're trying a new system.

When you return from your professional development, you share.  Mind-blowing, I know.  But when teachers are asked to share what they've learned at the workshops, I can see the light bulbs above their heads turn on. This is a step that we're continuing to develop but so far, it's been fun!  After all, the best way to learn something is to teach it!

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