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Balancing teacher workload and maximizing the outcomes of teacher PD requires a thoughtful and holistic approach to teacher PD.

Empowering educators through holistic teacher PD

Balancing teacher workload and maximizing the outcomes of PD--to create immediate impact, lasting skills, educator engagement--requires a thoughtful approach

Key points:

I vividly remember 20 years ago when I first entered the education field as an elementary school teacher. My lifelong career dream became a reality as I proudly entered my classroom, ready to nurture and positively impact young minds. 

Also memorable was that it didn’t take long to recognize I was missing key training and resources that could help make me a more effective educator. I approached this realization with optimism, eager to learn and grow, reaching out for the support of my supervisors and peers. I didn’t know it at the time, but these early experiences in the classroom and exposure to professional development would profoundly help shape my career path. I became passionate about helping other teachers feel prepared and finding ways to help them enhance their skills, knowledge and confidence.    

As leaders, it’s imperative we remain focused on providing educators what they need to succeed as the education landscape continues to evolve. To truly excel in this dynamic field, educators require a broad array of tools in their toolkit. 

While the vast majority of teachers are well schooled in pedagogy, instruction, and assessment, many are not prepared to manage and support students with the increased occurrences of mental health issues and behavioral struggles. Further complicating matters, educators today are also under greater pressure to serve students with special needs. Two-thirds of students with disabilities now spend more than 80 percent of their time in general education classrooms, according to NCES. The combination can feel like a tidal wave, leaving teachers unprepared to navigate challenging classroom environments. 

Working in a classroom day in and day out can be tough, especially when you aren’t seeing the positive changes you had hoped for. 

Recent research shows that nearly one-third of U.S. K–12 educators are thinking of leaving their jobs. The annual rate of teacher attrition rose 20 percent from 2019-2020, at least in part impacted by the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic. After dipping a bit from 2020-2021, attrition rose 17 percent from 2021 to 2022 and is on track to outpace pre-pandemic monthly averages.

It’s time to focus not merely on the problem, but the solution: empowering our educators. 

Empowerment is key to retention. For teachers to feel empowered and to be successful means providing them a wide range of strategies, tools, resources, and opportunities to enhance their skills, knowledge, and teaching practices. 

When anyone, including a teacher, feels confident or set up for success in their role, they’re more likely to be engaged, be successful, and derive satisfaction from their work. Taking a more holistic approach to professional development (PD) may be the key to helping keep America’s teachers in the classroom. 

Through a robust teacher PD program, district leaders and administrators can equip and empower educators to address all student needs and challenges, no matter how complex, whether they are academic or nonacademic.

Adopting a balanced, holistic approach to teacher PD that encompasses classroom management, instructional excellence, and leadership development can empower educators to meet and overcome the diverse challenges they face. This integrated method fortifies learning environments and offers vital support, providing a robust and efficacious pathway to enhanced student outcomes and comprehensive school transformation. 

Educating teachers on how to effectively manage their classrooms can lead to more positive, inclusive environments where all students can learn. It also allows educators to spend less time disciplining and more time teaching. While the challenges facing educators and district administrators are significant, proven classroom management strategies exist that can make a real improvement. 

It’s a tall ask to expect district and school administrators to do this on their own. And balancing teacher workload and maximizing the outcomes of teacher PD–to create immediate impact, lasting skills, educator engagement–requires a thoughtful approach. 

One solution is to partner with a professional development service provider that offers instructor-led workshops, on-demand training, and job-embedded coaching for teachers. A careful mix of these delivery methods can increase professional learning opportunities without adding more hours, stress, and scheduling headaches to educator PD days. Working with a partner can provide a district with an outside perspective on needs, areas of growth, and opportunities. 

We all know that a teacher’s time is precious. School administrators should look for PD solutions that are personalized, flexible, and that best suit their needs in the classroom, one-on-one, and in small group sessions. 

We’ve entered into this field to make a difference. Let’s retain our vital teachers and help them to help our children succeed, now and in the future. 

Related: Prioritizing teacher well-being can help schools retain talent

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