- Professional Practice– The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.
This standard addresses the fact that the field of education highly values communication and collaboration among teachers, administrators, and building staff. Professional development trainings and staff meetings contribute to a teacher’s knowledge, experience, and personal desire to continually learn about best practices in education. Students benefit from the extra hours that teachers devote to professional development. A teacher’s responsibility is to incorporate new instructional approaches, activities, and teaching techniques into lessons.
Throughout my student teaching internship, I have attended several staff meetings and professional development trainings. Additionally, I have observed classes and teachers in almost every grade, along with having a few veteran teachers observe me teach. These experiences have been beyond beneficial. I have incorporated several of the ideas I observed into my teaching and my students have responded positively to the changes.
During one of the recent Professional Development trainings at my school, the training committees discussed two topics with the teaching staff. The first presentation was a continuing lecture on the the importance of formative and summative assessments. As a student teacher who has learned about this topic over the past two years, I was a bit surprised to witness the resistance that many teachers demonstrated about assessments. I admit I have found assessments to be an area of challenge and growth, yet I also know the results indicate how important assessments are in the classroom. I recently posted an Assess Yourself chart for my Kindergarten students to use during lessons. The chart includes three signals: a thumbs up to indicate I’ve got this; a sideway thumbs to indicate I need a little bit of help, and a thumbs down to indicate I am very confused. I found the examples for free on Teachers Pay Teachers. Link is available here. There are great assessment options for older students too. I had my students practice using the signals and within two days several of them started using the signs without me asking. It was amazing and I realized how quickly such young students would utilize a form of assessment. It empowers them to think about their learning and understanding of the material.
The second topic at the last meeting was about a new social skills program that the school is implementing called The Feeling Words. A few teachers have piloted the program over the past few months so they shared their application and experience. The Feeling Words is a program designed so teachers focus on the same social skills with all students. The distinction is that every grade describes the social skill word using a different term. Also, teachers in Kindergarten through Second Grade read a book or share a story before introducing the word and making connections. Teachers with students in Third Grade through Fifth Grade review the word and connection before sharing the story or book. The picture below describes the terms used in each grade.
I had not heard of this program prior to being introduced to it during the professional development training. I really like how this program unites all teachers and students to focus on the same social skills. Similar to the presentation on assessment, I noticed several teachers demonstrate frustration about being required to implement this new program into their instruction during the next school year. I understand teachers have limited instructional time, but I also believe that resisting the changes wastes time that could be used to figure out how to incorporate the new programs or procedures.
As I have participated in the professional development meetings, I have become more aware about why the Professional Practice standard is an important part of SPU’s program. Hunzicker (2013) researched the importance of a teacher’s disposition and his or her influence in schools. In her part of her findings, Hunzicker (2013) determined that when teachers have a positive perspective about learning and student engagement, then those teachers are more likely to be involved in professional development trainings and pursue a teacher leadership position (p. 542). Once again, I understand teachers are limited on time. With that said, I strongly believe that being as involved as possible in professional development directly benefits myself and my students. I know professional development will likely become more difficult to remain updated on because best practices are constantly changing. Therefore, I believe this is an area that I will always remain cognizant of improving throughout my career as a teacher.
Hunzicker, J. (2013). Attitude has a lot to do with it: Dispositions of emerging teacher leadership. Teacher Development, 17(4), 538-561. Doi: 10.1080/13664530.2013.849614