Editor-in-Chief Fares Chehabi looks into the inner workings of Professional Development Day
More than 100 teachers will walk into a school bereft of students and make their way into the main gym for a day of learning. This will be the scene on October 5 and November 27 when ASL teachers will temporarily become students as they attempt to make the most of Professional Development Day, a day that, for most students, is nothing more than a day off school.
“The goal [of professional development days] is to ensure that we take time to develop the craft and expertise of teachers, ensure that we’re following best practices and take time to reflect on our practice in general,” said Director of Curriculum and Instruction Roberto d’Erizans, who plans the days with all three principals.
However, d’Erizans feels that two days is not enough for professional development throughout the year. “I’d like to see more PD days,” he said. “Teachers need more time to reflect. ASL can a be a very busy place and can feel like a marathon during the year. Sometimes you have to take a step back, but it’s always a struggle because you have to try to maximize instructional time too.”
Every professional development day is different, d’Erizans said. Formats in the past have included guest speakers and workshops, including courses that focus on technology, a concept that d’Erizans feels is much easier for students to learn than teachers. The upcoming professional development day, on October 5, will mainly focus on a discussion of all-school values and will include time for curriculum planning. “This year, we’re giving a lot of teachers time to plan and work in teams,” d’Erizans said. “Ask any teacher the hardest thing they want to fit in the day: it’s planning. They really want to make sure your class is based on the best instructional methods and includes specific goals around the unit that they’re teaching.”
Teachers’ feedback following the conclusion of a professional development day does not go unnoticed and plays a part in the planning of the days, too. “Often, we do a survey or exit card,” d’Erizans said. “We try to listen to make sure that the time is used effectively. Consistently, a lot of teachers have asked for time for planning, and October 5 is the answer to that.”
More so, the days also allow time for teachers to build rapport with each other and establish a greater camaraderie, even between High School and Lower School teachers. “We often have events that are for everybody, so having the chance to sit next to a cross-divisional teacher and learn more from each other that way amplifies the effect of a professional development day,” d’Erizans said.
English Department Head Meghan Tally is a big fan of professional development days. “I particularly value time spent with other teachers, within and across departments, considering specific artifacts from the classroom, and I love getting glimpses of what my colleagues are exploring,” she said. “It’s particularly edifying to enter someone else’s classroom as a student, to experience things from that perspective.”
Science Department Head Bill Kenney has a similar opinion. “I think professional development days can be quite useful and insightful provided they have a clear goal and are well-planned,” he said. “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with teachers across the divisions that some [professional development] days have afforded me in the past.”
Meanwhile, d’Erizans stressed that he will always continue to teach, in addition to planning the professional development days, as “it allows me to see what we plan in context.” On the day of the interview, he mentioned having talked to Social Studies teachers, Principals and the Director of Curriculum at Jakarta International School. Just another day at work, then.