Professional development for teachers plays an important role in helping you reach your career goals. But it isn't just workshops, conferences, and course work. It's also taking on new roles in your school that help you grow. Every school has its formal and informal teacher leaders, recognized and respected by both colleagues and administration. If you aspire to be a leader, here are some actions you can take.
Be a Star in the Classroom
Teachers who are outstanding in the classroom are often the first ones asked to participate in leadership activities. For instance, these teachers are usually the first to be asked to mentor new hires. They may also be asked to work with other teachers on district-wide initiatives like writing curriculum over the summer. Mentoring and curriculum writing are activities that not only enhance your reputation but may also enhance your salary.
To get yourself on your principal's star-quality radar, you have to be worthy of the designation. Put in the time and energy to plan lessons carefully and have everything you need at the ready—no one is impressed with the physical education teacher who waits until class starts to put up the volleyball nets.
Be willing to try special projects with kids that take them beyond the regular curriculum, like a renaissance fair, robotics contest, or full-on debate (complete with judges and an audience). Invite your principal to observe when you and your students are doing something creative or unusual.
Participate in School Life
There are teachers who can be called "good school citizens." They arrive on time for faculty meetings and actually participate in discussions. They're generally positive without shying away from what needs to be said—but they always speak their truth with respect. They take their turn at chaperoning, advising, and bus duty without complaining, and they don't gossip in the faculty room. These teachers are trusted by the principal for their honesty and appreciated for their willingness to go the extra mile, and it's these people who are considered for department chair positions or membership to the principal's advisory cabinet.
Further reading: A Master's Degree in Education
By being active in your school's community, and doing so with a smile on your face, you're showing that you're engaged and committed. As a good school citizen, you may even be rewarded in other ways, like getting swift approval when you ask to attend something like a conference or having your ideas about ways to spend the budget actually considered.
Consider Moving Beyond the Classroom
If you're looking to further your classroom knowledge, enhance your reputation, and increase your salary, complete an advanced degree or another certification. A master's degree will open doors that aren't accessible to teachers who possess only a bachelor's degree. Local colleges sometimes hire classroom teachers who hold advanced degrees as adjuncts, for example. Some teachers opt for National Board Certification, a rigorous and prestigious course of study that's widely recognized as the standard for classroom teaching.
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In some school districts, teachers may be designated curriculum specialists. These teachers may be relieved of some or all of their teaching duties so they can work with colleagues to improve instruction. No administrative certificate is required because curriculum specialists don't evaluate their peers. Their job is simply to assist in improving classroom performance.
Clearly, advancing your career requires adding more responsibility to an already packed schedule. Not unlike other professions, it may also require more time and effort outside of the school day if you decide to pursue another degree or certification. As such, not everyone is ready or eager to make those commitments—especially if you're at the beginning of your career and feel that your plate is already full. But continually improving your classroom techniques and accepting other regular school duties with grace will earn you the respect of your colleagues, whether you want to advance your career or not.
Professional development for teachers comes in many forms. Teachers committed to improving themselves can find opportunities for growth in and outside the classroom. For many, additional activities keep them engaged in their career, providing new challenges and diverse ways to participate in education.