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  What’s Going on in My Child’s School? A Parent’s Guide to Good Schools
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Teaching Teachers New Skills

Teachers—just like doctors or lawyers—must keep up with new developments in their field. What a veteran teacher taught 20 years ago may be lost in today’s classroom. Chances are good you would not schedule an appointment with a doctor who ignored the latest advancements in medicine or hire an attorney who failed to keep up with changes in the law. Why should we expect any lesser standard from the teacher we entrust our children to during the school year?

“Parents may think: ‘They have a degree in education so they know everything there is to know to teach my child.’ But just like any other profession, you have to stay current. New research comes out regularly informing us about what kids have to learn.” — SEDL Programming Manager Vicki Dimock

Teaching has been slow to catch up with other professions that build on-the-job training into the workday. For too long, teachers have focused largely on what goes on in their classrooms, without any time left over to compare notes and learn from each other. That’s changing. The time teachers spend meeting regularly with their colleagues during the school year to critique what worked and what didn’t in the classroom is paying off for children. Teachers—just like students—learn better when they collaborate.

Researchers say that good professional development:

  • takes place during the regular school calendar;

  • provides opportunities for hands-on practice and reflection; and

  • fosters more collaboration and team work with other teachers and the principal.

Parent Maria Robles says she doesn’t mind when a substitute occasionally fills in for her children’s teachers who are receiving professional development. “Teachers get a lot of training. It strengthens my belief in the principal because he obviously cares about the kids enough to help the teachers get better educated.”

Robles, who volunteers at Canutillo Elementary, says she sees the results of teacher professional development first hand. “I’m in school a lot. I hear teachers talk a lot about what they want to do in the classroom, what they have learned. They sound excited and it’s wonderful to see.”
Terry Ortiz knows collaborating with his colleagues has made him a better teacher. “This is really an opportunity to get some true feedback and to work with other people instead of just being isolated in your classroom,” says Ortiz.

Principal Vicki Baldwin of Garza High School in Austin, Texas, says her teachers were uncomfortable with the idea of professional development at first. But Baldwin was determined to push her teachers to think differently, to think in ways that would benefit their students.
“I’ve always been a proponent of professional development,” says Baldwin. “You always need new skills and you are much more effective if you collaborate with other teachers. I asked teachers to be more flexible, to work together. They needed new skills to do that.”

Ten Tips for Parents: Help Your Child Learn

  • Talk with your child’s teacher about what he or she will learn and be expected to do during the school year.

  • Find out how you can help your child with school-related projects at home.

  • Make learning a priority in your home by providing a time and place for children to study.

  • Visit your child’s classroom to learn more about the instructor’s teaching style.

  • Ask your child’s teacher for updates on how he/she is doing and where he or she might need help.

  • Learn more about what your child’s teacher is doing to keep his or her teaching skills

  • Take advantage of community resources such as the library, after-school tutoring, field trips and summer camps that encourage learning.

  • Get involved with your child in community, school and volunteer activities.

  • Look into different colleges or read about interesting careers together. Visit a college
    campus or a job site with your child.

  • Turn off the television and talk with your child about current events, books or movies
    during meals.

  What’s Going on in My Child’s School? A Parent’s Guide to Good Schools
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