While it is officially summer for most teachers at this point and we should be relaxing and celebrating the fact that we got through this school year, many of us remain anxious about the uncertainty of the coming school year. School districts across the country are scrambling to create plans for the fall.

While administrators are busy preparing safety plans, there is one area that should not be neglected in all of this – and that is teacher professional development. Granted, we are not living in the same reality we were three months; changes in professional development will not look the same as they did last summer.

According to a recent Edutopia article by Megan Allen, there are several shifts that need to happen in order for teachers to be prepared for what many are calling our “new reality.” Allen states that these shifts “need to be addressed[ed] in a quick pinch and for which we then need to begin making plans for long-term development and support…if we want the fall to be more successful.”

The shifts include the following:

1. Trama-informed instruction: Every child (and even adult teachers) are going through some degree of trauma – either brought about by this pandemic or the protests brought about by police brutality in this country. Allen states, “Teachers will need professional development in trauma-informed instruction for their students, and most likely they’ll want to explore how they’re experiencing trauma as well.” Placing an emphasis on relationship-building may help address issues that impede student learning.

2. Team building and collaboration: Collaboration may not be every teacher’s strong suite but Allen reports that it’s been on the rise – forced by the happenings of the pandemic. She states that collaboration is “integral to teacher performance, teacher learning, and ultimately student learning.”

3. SEL (for teachers and students): SEL was a hot topic long before COVID-19 was brought to light but this pandemic has put a spotlight on emotional health and well-being, for both teachers and students. Allen states, “Studies show that it [SEL instruction] must be embedded in the whole school—teachers included.”

4. Dynamic hybrid learning and distance learning: We can only speculate at this point what our classrooms will look like come fall – whether we resume in-person sessions with extreme social distancing, continue with a distance learning model, or have some combination of the two. Allen states, “Teachers will need to flex their trial-and-error muscles while translating highly effective brick-and-mortar learning experiences to the online world. They will also need training and support in using video-conference systems in and out of the classroom, and in figuring out how to attend to the needs of students sitting at desks in the school building (and in their home living rooms). And we need to address the technology gap and other inequities that distance learning is shining a spotlight on.”

5. Family engagement: Now, more than ever before, family engagement will be an integral part of any learning model that’s adopted for the fall. Teachers and parents will need to continue to work together for their students, which remains integral to student learning.

However, the biggest caveat regarding these shifts, Allen warns, is teacher burn-out.

Allen states, “Some burnout is to be expected toward the end of the school year, but the stress and anxiety that arrived with COVID-19 have really ramped that up for a lot of educators. Teachers need time to relax, recalibrate, and then have choice in their learning pathways. We can’t expect teachers to learn it all in a few months—they are only human.”

As such, Allen recommends giving teachers “a menu of options for professional learning based on their knowledge of themselves as adult learners and the needs of their incoming students.” The focus being that teachers become empowered and get to choose the path they take for professional learning. Allen concludes, “For some, that may be book studies with colleagues, webinars, virtual workshops, and/or Twitter chats. It should be up to the individual teacher to take charge of designing their own learning, refreshing their educator soul and spirit to tackle the 2020–21 school year and whatever surprises it might bring.”

To read Allen’s article in full, visit here.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.