PD Cyber Café

A challenge teachers face every school year is how to balance their want for professional growth without losing instruction time in the classroom. Often, teachers are left deciding whether to attend professional development workshops during the school day, or to pass on the professional development so their students do not lose a day of instructional time.

As school administrators and education leaders, we have to look for creative ways to provide professional development for faculty and staff that not only allows them to remain in the classroom, but is tailored to meet their needs. Resources such as AMLE webinars and online reading materials offer educators a plethora of professional development resources that can be accessed at their leisure. This allows educators to grow professionally and maximize time in their classroom while expanding their resources on pedagogy and educating the middle level learner.

An approach I have taken in my middle school is replacing our traditional monthly faculty meetings with PD faculty sessions. The information that I previously disseminated to faculty and staff during faculty meetings is now produced in a monthly newsletter, The Faculty Focus, which is emailed to each staff member. The designated after-school monthly meeting times are now strictly dedicated to providing professional development opportunities for faculty and staff.

Teachers are encouraged to take full advantage of their AMLE membership and participate in after school webinars, join Twitter discussions, or collaborate with colleagues to discuss an article they’ve read in a recent edition of AMLE Magazine.

One fun and creative professional development workshop we held in our middle school recently was a “PD Cyber Café.” By using the AMLE library of recorded webinars, I was able to provide my faculty and staff professional development that was individualized to their interest. A “menu” was created that listed ten recommended “dishes” to choose from. These “dishes” were ten of the recorded webinars from the AMLE website that I felt my staff would be most interested in.

If a staff member was interested in another option, they could select an “al a carte” item from the entire AMLE library of webinars. As teachers entered the school’s media center at the end of the school day, they grabbed a laptop, gathered at a table, selected their item from the menu, and engaged in professional development through AMLE recorded webinars.

Of course, what would a cyber café be without coffee? Coffee and light refreshments were available for staff to enjoy while taking part in their professional development.

Teachers who were interested in viewing the same webinar gathered together at tables and engaged in discussion during and after the session. Others who preferred a more private session added headphones to their laptop. When the PD session ended, teachers were provided a certificate of professional development based on the webinar they viewed.

Rather than take 45 minutes to an hour of my teachers’ time at the end of the school day to disseminate information about upcoming dates, policies, and student issues, this information was included in the newsletter. Instead, this time after school provided teachers with the opportunity for personalized professional development thanks to the AMLE library of recorded webinars. Teachers left the media center that afternoon with coffee and PD certificates in their hands and smiles on their faces. They were able to engage in excellent professional development without sacrificing instructional time from their classes.

James A. Brown is principal of Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell, New Jersey.