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5 Tips for Making the Most of Professional Development Days

Amy Lauren Smith

Summer is winding down, which means teachers are gearing up to head back to school. Before the first bell rings, most of us have a few days of professional development, or in-service days, to attend first. In addition to classroom prep, these days are often filled with meetings meant to get everyone back on the same page.

I’ve sat on both sides of these meetings over the course of my career, and have found that when done right, they are a great way to kick off the year. Whether you’re a department chair, an administrator, or a consultant, here are four tips that will help your school’s professional development days go smoothly.

Encourage collaboration.

Having been the new kid at more than a couple schools, I’ve learned from personal experience that letting people collaborate on something is a good way to ease nerves and get them in the mood for learning. When possible, give teachers time to work on a project with their departments and teams—but also switch up the groups occasionally, so people can get fresh ideas from colleagues they might not normally work with.

Learn more: 4 Essential Ingredients for Successful Teacher Collaboration

Get people moving.

After being away from school for some time, it’s hard to get back into work-mode—and nothing will make teachers (or students!) tune out faster than sitting in the same spot for too long. Keep your teachers engaged by scheduling regular program changes and breaks. (Bonus points if you plan activities they can use with their students at the start of the year!)

Learn more: 4 Starter Activities for the First Day of a New Semester

Give teachers something to be excited about.

I work at a school that is all about initiatives, so we’re often overloaded with acronyms at the beginning of the year (SEL, SBG, PLC, and so on). Luckily, our passionate administrators make this work. When we see that they’re excited to kick off a new project, we’re more eager to get on board.

Let teachers prep.

One of the biggest complaints I hear during professional development days is that there isn’t enough time to just get settled. This is especially important in elementary schools, where teachers need to have an inviting environment ready to go on the first day. With so much important business to attend to, it’s easy to overschedule—but don’t forget do set aside a reasonable amount of time for teachers to work on their own.

Learn more: 3 Tips for Designing a Healthy, Inviting Classroom

Bring snacks!

It’s no secret that teachers love coffee, and meetings always go better when people are well fed. In fact, a principal once told me that this tip was the first thing he learned during his training. A full staff is a happy staff, so make sure there are some healthy options for us to munch on. (Just please… no more donuts!)

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