So what do teachers learn in professional development? What
does it mean to your child? How do you know whether your childs
teacher is receiving good professional development or simply
wasting valuable classroom time that could be spent in the
classroom with your child?
In the past, teachers often focused all their attention on
the brightest students in the class and hoped that the slower
students would catch up. Good professional development emphasizes
giving teachers the tools and expertise they need to help
all students achieve at high levels. It requires teachers
to take a hard look at what they are doing in the classroom,
to examine whether they are successfully challenging all children
to their best ability and to adjust their teaching when instruction
is not working for students.
For example, teachers are learning to focus more heavily
on the learning needs of their students. Thats because
more and more research shows that learning needs vary from
student to student. One student may need more one-on-one time
with a teacher. Another may be a visual learner and still
another may learn through hands-on activities. So, teachers
have to understand what motivates their students and keep
track of it. This requires talking with other teachers, reflecting
on what works and what doesnt in the classroom, and
identifying areas for improvement.
How can you tell whether your childs teacher is receiving
good professional development? Heres a checklist of
what to look for:
Does the professional development focus on improving
student achievement, and is it tied to the schools
overall improvement plan?
Does it require your childs teacher to meet regularly
with other teachers and critique
his or her work in the classroom?
How often do teachers meet to polish their skills and
learn more about the latest
Parents dont need an expert to tell them that a good
teacher brings out the best in their child. We all know this
from personal experience. All of us can name at least one
teacher who had a big impact on our lives and on the way we
Some teachers were born with a natural gift to teach. They
intuitively know how to help a child struggling in math. They
move easily from one childs learning style to anothers.
Many teachers, however, are like the rest of us. Getting better
at what we do requires extra effort and help. For teachers,
this means participating in professional development that
helps push them to a whole new level of teaching. Improving
teacher quality through good professional development improves
learning for all of our children.
Ten Tips for Parents: get involved in your Childs
Attend school events and activities.
Tutor students after school.
Encourage at least one other parent to become a
Volunteer at your childs school at least
three times a year.
Offer to work as a teachers aide in your
Ask the principal if your childs school has
a school improvement plan.
Ask questions. Ask more questions.
Learn more about how the school is increasing student
Get involved in school meetings for parents and
community members that focus on how to strengthen
Help school staff research new and proven learning