Why You Should Consider Opening Up Your School’s Professional Development
Today’s topic is so great for our We Learn Together Blog because it gets to the very heart of why this blog was created. We Learn Together. As we all know, in life we don’t always have all the answers. Sometimes we need to lean on other people to help us solve problems. This is where the concept of “opening up,” or making professional development (PD) classes available to all teachers can be extremely important and useful.
Many K-12 schools offer PD classes for their own teachers, but did you know, these schools are missing out on a variety of opportunities by not allowing outside teachers in their classes? We will discuss some of those reasons in this post.
I feel like I should preface the rest of this post: If your class topic is so specific that it is meant only for your school or district, this post may not apply to you. School exclusive PD classes could include trainings on school- or district-specific software, curriculum, or policies. We encourage you to continue submitting these classes for approval as usual.
Yet, there are a number of schools and districts offering PD classes of universal value to all teachers. Offering these classes to all teachers can add value for your teachers and your district. So, let’s explore some of the benefits of opening your classes to a broader audience.
Exposing teachers to individuals in different schools and districts allows for relationship building opportunities. Many of the impacts of building relationships are discussed in the rest of this post but, there is one point I would like to highlight.
We have seen all the statistics about the growing shortage of qualified teachers. By opening your PD classes to all teachers, you are literally opening the doors for teachers. If the teachers like what they see, you may get more (or maybe more qualified) applicants for open teaching positions in your school or district. And, bonus, as an administrator or teacher leader, you will have some knowledge of who that individual is and how well they interact with current teachers.
Substitute Teachers Need PD Credit Too
If, as a teacher, you’ve ever tried to take a day off, you know how hard it is to find a substitute teacher to teach your class. Granted, some days are easier than others, but finding a good substitute teacher is a little like winning the vacation day lottery. Now, imagine if that awesome “sub” can no longer be your sub because they are unable to find or afford the classes they need to maintain their license.
This is where your district can take the lead in showing how valued substitute teachers are to your district. Take the time to invite all registered substitute teachers in your district to join your school’s PD classes. You might even consider paying their fee for obtaining credit. Paying their course fee may seem inconsequential, but going that extra mile will have those valued subs clamoring to teach at your school.
Many individuals who teach professional development classes earn a modest amount of money for the time they spend planning, teaching, and grading. Opening your class to all teachers may increase your earnings from that class. In some cases, your earnings can increase substantially. If you are being paid by your district or a grant to teach that class, you can either keep the extra money you earn to supplement your salary or you can pass that money on to your school to fund special purchases. A win for you and your school!
Share Your Expertise
If you are currently teaching a PD class, you already have some level of expertise in your topic. By opening your class to all teachers, you allow teachers in other districts, who may not have access to your type of expertise, the opportunity to learn from you. In North Dakota, there are a lot of rural schools that do not have hundreds of individuals teaching and sharing their expertise on a regular basis. Opening your class to all teachers is one simple thing you can do that may have an enormous impact on a rural school. Let’s face it, we all want to know we have had an impact in life, right? This is one way to make an impact on a teacher, a school, a district, and/or a student.
Let Other Teachers Share Their Experience
When you consider the vast landscape of variables that make up the nation’s public-school system, or even just the variables in North Dakota, you will find there is always something to learn from another teacher. Opening your PD class to all teachers allows teachers to learn from each other.
What if a teacher in your school is struggling to find a solution to an issue in their classroom or with their student? And, what if the solution to that issue is held by another teacher, in another district? Would it be advantageous for those two teachers to connect? I bet you are nodding your head in agreement. Well, that is what can and does happen when you open your PD class to all teachers. In some cases, you may not even know your PD class had that impact but these classes do. We read about these kinds of impacts all the time in the class evaluations.
What I have listed above are only five reasons. There are a lot more reasons to open these classes. When our staff speak with K-12 teachers nationwide we hear a lot of very personal reasons why they need these classes.
"it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure all funds used toward K-12 education are used in a fiscally responsible way and sometimes that means sharing knowledge beyond your district, your region, or even your state."
The NDSU Distance and Continue Education program has always strived to be inclusive of all teachers regardless of their location or financial ability. I hope you, your school, and/or your district can relate to the scenarios above and you make a conscious decision about whether or not to open your PD classes to all teachers. Or, at least those classes that have widely applicable content.
With the current economic recession causing many individuals and districts to struggle financially, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure all funds used toward K-12 education are used in a fiscally responsible way and sometimes that means sharing knowledge beyond your district, your region, or even your state. Learn how to open your class.
We are thankful for all our instructors and students and we hope that the 2020-2021 school year finds you with more professional development opportunities than you could possibly need.
About the Author
Connie Jadrny, is the marketing and public relations coordinator for NDSU Distance and Continuing Education, a program of the Office of Teaching and Learning.
In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about the professional development needs of K-12 teachers.
In this series of posts, she intends to pass along bits of wisdom from the professional development industry.
Let’s learn together!