Higher instructor skilled growth: instructor pairing

contributed by Dawn Casey Rowesocial studies teacher

Professional development is not something many teachers look forward to.

By considering activities that engage teachers and bring back motivation to professional learning, schools are making great strides in building a community that uses their own expertise to grow stronger and closer. These advances have an impact not only on professional development, but also on academic results and an improved school climate.

See also Professional development for teachers

Career development all too often works like this: schools pay expensive consultants and people are forced to listen. The session may be helpful for some people, but it may not be what others need. Money is scarce these days, and our own talent is something we underuse. Most schools have hidden treasures that are never tapped into – their people.

Here’s a faculty development option that might kill two birds with one stone – it encourages all faculty members to develop skills they want to develop while also saving the bottom line money.

Match people.

Let people offer to help others in their areas of expertise and let people ask their peers for the help they need.

To make it work

There are several possibilities for this. One option is to have “Hello” signs on the door at your next faculty meeting. Have two colored tags or markers that represent “I need” and “I can help.” Instructors fill in labels and wear them during the activity, which is best organized as a mix or snack session. People roam freely and enjoy some downtime chatting with the goal of connecting with at least one or two people they can help and one or two who have a talent or set of skills they’d like to learn . You can arrange to meet at convenient times or even spend time during that meeting or during the next professional development session.

A professional development idea like this does two things – it helps people find the resources they need while the school saves much-needed funds, but it also helps improve the school climate. To achieve appropriate matching at the highest level of productivity, employees must look forward to working with colleagues they may not have worked with before, and be given the opportunity to do so. It strikes me that I don’t often see colleagues more than two or three houses away from me. I teach six classes at a time and never stray too far from “my zone”.

See also Why teachers need each other

We’ve all worked in grade level or department groups, but we also need a reason to form different circles. If the skill I want is classroom systems or leadership and the person offering me help is outside of my normal circles, that’s a good thing. It broadens my base of collaboration and helps me connect more deeply with new people. By involving other members of the school community in these circles, such as B. support staff and administration, the positive influence and the opportunity to share gifts will be even greater.

The big idea

There are so many skills we could benefit from that matching people gives us new ideas about the opportunities for excellence in our schools – ideas that we might not consider until we see what people are offering. This creates openness, a thirst for adventure and an all-round better school climate.

Creating a school climate is not easy. It’s something that requires trust, collaboration, and a healthy dose of free time to spend with others. However, “downtime” should not be viewed as unproductive. The largest companies in the world, like Google, give their employees time to come up with great ideas. Google gives employees time to work on projects of personal interest that could potentially benefit Google. Many of the features we use and love grew out of that “20% time.”

Although Google has recently put some rules on it, the concept is a paradigm that works. An activity that organically brings people together for professional growth and school improvement sets the stage for people to open up, use their many talents, and reach for the stars.

As always, thoughts and comments below!

image attribution flickr user annabelfarleyphotography; Better teacher professional development: teacher pairing

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