Part of my role at work is to facilitate and plan the development of teachers.
It is not an easy role. The most challenging part is to convince teachers that any development plans we have are there to help them become better in our particular context. It is not about keeping them busy in order to make the boss look good, or for creating fancy reports at the end of the year. That is certainly not the intention.
However, without taking the context fully into consideration, no policy, no matter how good, will work.
Over the years, I have realised that teachers are not only motivated by different goals, in fact their motivation and performance in class is affected by wider issues.
If teachers are having a hard time at work generally, such as for example low pay or apparent lack of support from administration, such as unrealistic curriculum goals, or even problems at home and other personal issues, professional development will fail.
In addition to this, if students are used to judge teachers via student surveys, and the results are not nuanced or balanced by other considerations, teachers are bound to feel hard done by.
Fundamentally, what I have realised, is that we need to find out more about what is going on with teachers at an individual level, both professional and personal, before we can make judgements about their classroom performance.
Teachers typically come into the profession due to their want and need to help and support students, and to feel the satisfaction of having impacted on the future. They are also naturally creative, and do not need ‘us’ to teach them how to teach. They already know how to teach. We should be there to lend a helping hand and to provide support to help them become even better.
We rarely ask teachers about their classes and the challenges they face. How often do we give space to teachers to even question the instruments that are used to measure their performance?
A multiplicity of factors impact teaching adversely. An unhappy teacher will result in an unhappy student.
If we see them as merely a tool for reporting performance, then we have failed them.
Fundamentally, the message I am trying to convey here very briefly, is that teachers are the treasure that educational institutions cannot do without. We need to find out more about their needs and desires, and appreciate their talents and experiences.
Providing professional development (PD) in a vacuum without addressing other work and non-work issues results in ineffective PD.
Once the teachers feel that we are taking care of their needs, teachers will be able to start taking care of their students, which of course is the ultimate goal of education.