Sustainable and long-term development is an ideal that all professional teachers aspire to.

The ability to stay motivated and be a reflective practitioner is what makes the job we do as teachers more rewarding. Does your school or institution recognise this and what support are you given to develop - financial or otherwise? What systems are in place to ensure that development happens without being intrusive?

For this blog post, I am going to consider professional development at IH Palermo, from the point of view of a teacher. I believe that as far as CPD is concerned, the (constantly evolving) recipe in use at IHPA is successful. Why? How? Read on to find out!

The CPD programme at IHPA is geared towards a diverse team of teachers, ranging from newly- CELTA qualified to senior teachers with various qualifications and lengths of teaching experience. As such, there is no one size fits all approach, but instead teachers interact at their own level with the opportunities available. These include:

  • Workshops
  • Developmental observations done by senior staff
  • Peer observations
  • Open-door planning advice hours
  • Funding for IH World Teacher Training and other qualifications
  • Advice and support during these qualifications

In addition to this, individual development is recognised and prized. For example, teachers are encouraged to participate in IH online conferences, to write for the IH Journal, to present at face-to-face conferences, to deliver workshops, to pursue qualifications and so on. Individual achievements are celebrated too. For example, three teachers at IH Palermo did the IH Certificate for teaching Young Learners and Teens. As well as continued support throughout the process, our achievements were celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco at the end of that week’s staff meeting. Recently I was accepted to speak at IATEFL 2015, and this was announced in the weekly meeting, treated as something to be valued. In my opinion, while it may seem like a small thing, the degree of interest shown in teachers- development by the institution can impact greatly on the motivation of the teachers involved.

Importantly, teachers are also encouraged to learn from one another, not only from the senior staff. For example, in workshops, rather than the flow of information being solely from deliverer to participants, participants are encouraged to share their ideas and experience, whatever their level, through group activities but also in ‘open class’. As mentioned above, the role of workshop deliverer is not reserved for senior staff but open to all teachers. Workshops may also be more informal, deliberately set up to enable the exchange of ideas rather than to ‘train’ teachers. For example, swap shops, discussion questions in the sunshine, or sessions where previous input sessions are revisited with the goal of letting us share what we’ve done with that input since a given session.

In terms of observation, emphasis is placed on development. Teachers are invited to discuss their lesson plans prior to the lesson, and helped to upgrade these; teachers are encouraged to experiment in these lesson observations; following the lesson, teachers reflect on that lesson, submit a reflection and then participate in a 1-1 detailed feedback session, with the goal of the teacher learning and growing rather than the goal of judging the teacher. Peer observation is also recognised as being a learning opportunity, and so rounds of peer observation are organised, with standby time being allocated to this. This might be observing a complete lesson or doing ‘buzz’ observations, where you spend 10-15 minutes in each class you observe and so get to watch a range of teachers, and teaching techniques, in action.

Finally, little things make a big difference: For example, when there are no more pressing tasks, being allowed to use your standby time to work on your IH Journal article demonstrates that the school values what you are doing, values your efforts to develop. Why is this important? To me, because inevitably the life of a teacher is a busy one, with lots of demands, in which you are often stretched to your limit trying to keep up with everything, and that is when CPD might slip. Equally, that is the time where a nudge in the right direction, a boost, a bit of encouragement, the recognition that you need time for CPD to happen (e.g. being allowed to use your standby time) can be the motivation that you need to take the next step.
Nowhere is perfect, but it is certainly rewarding to work somewhere where CPD is really valued, not only given lip service to; where the value comes through in the actions of the institution, rather than being limited to empty words. Well done, IHPA!

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