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Creating Quality Staff Development for Your Teachers

Creating Quality Staff Development for Your Teachers

Although staff development should take place all year, the beginning of the school year is essential to setting the tone for the entire year. It’s extremely important to have an effective Back-to-School event to set the right tone!

Having been involved in literally thousands of staff development events over the last 20 years, I’ve seen many that have been highly successful. Successful staff development events have several things in common.

Taking Into Account the Mindset of Your Staff

The first thing to consider is the state of mind of your staff. This is something most people don’t think about. Regardless of what information you think your staff needs to hear, the biggest question is how they’re feeling at this point in time.

When Your Staff Needs Inspiration

If your staff feels beaten down, frustrated, and defeated, you need to consider this with the type of presentation you offer. At that point, I recommended a seminar that’s fun, light, and encouraging.

If last school year was a difficult one, I definitely encourage you to start the year with a positive but informative speaker. I never recommend a speaker who’s all fun but no substance. People may later feel it was a waste of their time.

When Your Staff Is Ready to Grow

If recent experiences have gone well and you feel your staff is ready to learn and grow, deliver a session that’s content heavy yet still inspirational. The worst staff development is boring.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much information is shared. When teachers are bored during the presentation, they hate it. Don’t do boring! Find a presenter who’s lively and knowledgeable.

Determining What Type of Development Is Needed

One of the biggest factors when planning staff seminars is determining what type of staff development is needed. I always recommend asking for teacher input since they’re going to be the ones receiving the training. There are several ways to get staff input.

Conduct Surveys

Surveys that are anonymous are great because people are more honest and there’s less danger of one or two people dominating the discussion. If you want some control over the input, limit your survey to four or five topics. You may offer fewer topics or you may offer more depending on your circumstances.

I’ve found that completely open surveys are less helpful because responses can vary greatly. However, if you use an open survey and responses are very similar, this is particularly valuable because many are saying the same thing without any “guidance” from you.

Analyze Data

Another highly effective way to determine staff needs for a seminar is to look at your data in various areas. The most obvious is to look at student achievement data and determine which areas students scores are lowest and find professional development that strengthens your staff’s ability to teach those areas. This same data can be shared with teachers to help them decide which type of staff development is needed.

Create a Leadership Team

Another highly effective way to get teacher input is to have a staff development committee, teacher leadership team, or other teacher group that’s intimately familiar with the workings of the school involved in staff development decisions.

Considering the Desired Outcome for All Staff Members

A factor that’s often not given enough consideration is the desired outcome for staff members. What do you want your staff members to be able to do when they walk out of the training? This is a big deal because it’s a major factor in determining whom to select as a speaker and whether or not the training was a success when it’s over.

As a speaker, I always ask potential clients what is the main thing they want to accomplish with the staff development event. Then, I follow that up with a questionnaire and one of the questions is, “What are three goals you have for the training?”. It’s critical know EXACTLY what you want staff to be able to do as a result of the training.

Finding the Right Speaker for Your Staff

 Finding the right presenter for your staff is easy if one follows some simple rules. Unfortunately, most administrators fail to get this part right. The fact that most participants hate staff development days speaks volumes about the choices administrators usually make.

Yet, some administrators get it right over and over. How?

Know Your Staff

First, know your staff. Do they prefer upbeat or slower presentations? Are they talkative? Do they like to work together or do they prefer to work alone? These are just a few of the things to consider when looking for a trainer. Develop a list of questions to ask every potential speaker!

Evaluate the Speaker in Person

The best way to know if a speaker is right for your staff is to go and hear the speaker before you bring him or her in. Don’t just evaluate their material—every speaker has material. It’s the overall experience you should be judging.

For instance, how does the person interact with the audience? DOES the person interact with the audience? How does the person handle questions and, especially, any challenges that may arise? If you can’t see the person present, watch a video of the presenter that’s unedited for at least five minutes.

Check Out Their Website

Every speaker has a website, visit and study it. You may also want to have some of your teachers visit it and give you feedback. If the person is an author, read some of the written material. When you speak with the presenter, ask questions from your list. Ask about references if you’re not satisfied with what you see on the website for ANY reason.

Contact References

Next, call at least one reference and ask your two most important questions, being respectful of people’s time. For instance, ask if the person accomplished the major goal you wanted them to accomplish. You may also ask if the presentation was boring or interactive. I recommend you follow this procedure with at least three presenters in order to select your best fit.

Follow Up

When the presentation is over, debrief staff and, if everyone agrees, do at least one follow-up with the presenter. Staffs do not seem to follow through if they feel the presentation is a “one and done” event with no follow up or accountability.

You can create quality staff development training for your teachers by understanding the needs of your staff and taking steps to secure a speaker that fits their current mindset and goals. Don’t underestimate the power of quality training and motivational speakers for your team for the coming school year!

About the Author

Larry Bell, a Citadel graduate, is a 30+ year veteran in education. Fifteen of those years were spent as a classroom teacher where he was nominated for the National Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. As a teacher at Gar-field High School, a school with over 3,000 students speaking 36 different languages, Larry was recognized for his innovative classroom strategies that allowed his so called “Tough Kids” as well as his “Gifted and Talented” to excel!