I’ve spent the better part of my life, teaching adults. When I was 12 years old and through college, I taught adults how to swim. In the early 1990s, I began teaching adults at the preservice level, and received more formal instruction into andragogical principles.
Then, in 2013, I started my company, which designs and delivers transformative #ece professional development. So why do I say we are failing teachers?
Why do I feel that professional development offered at the preservice and inservice level is failing…and why isn’t it the curriculum or how the information is delivered?
In a nutshell, my stand is that our professional development (PD) efforts do not include sufficient attention to supporting teachers’ social-emotional skills.
Basically, I see us keeping at arms length when it comes to PD on helping teachers face and respond to situations where strong emotions will be evoked.
Rather, we tend to focus almost exclusively on identifying and addressing skills needed to meet compliance requirements, training on how to deliver instruction that is aligned with recommended practice, and coaching others to implement adopted service delivery models and/or district-wide initiatives.
When we do examine PD and its effectiveness, we often narrow our focus to the content and competencies, the strategies used to deploy knowledge and skills to adult learners, and fuss with the delivery format (one day versus a series, an online community versus a 60-minute webinar).
We aren’t, in my opinion, going deep enough in terms of helping teachers explore their own beliefs, systematically guiding them to examine inner dynamics and emotions, or supporting them in strengthening their own social-emotional skills. As with children, adults need strong social-emotional skills to respond to challenging situations and make complex decisions.
Just as it is “easier” for a preschool teacher to help a child learn to write the letters of the alphabet than to regulate his/her emotions, it is easier for me, a PD provider, to show teachers how to complete a form or implement an instructional strategy, than it is to help them identify and control their own emotions.
My realization of the need to incorporate opportunities for aligning and integrating our inner and outer realities, into PD offerings, is still emerging. I have, however, started to become more intentional in delivering PD from a wholistic perspective.
In other words, I have started to not only support adults to implement recommended practices, but to also strengthen their social-emotional skills, including:
I realize that I can’t ask teachers to give equal attention to children’s social-emotional well being as to learning to read and write, and turn around and only support them by training and coaching on content and techniques. I can’t avoid the need to create opportunities for them to turn inward, and strengthen their own social-emotional skills.