What do teachers do on District-wide PL Days?

Why are Nov. 13 and April 1 professional learning days, and what do teachers do on these days anyway?

Lethbridge School District No. 51 schools have two district-wide professional learning (PL) days during the school year. Students stay home on these days but schools are open, as school staff focus on professional learning.

Why do teachers need this time? This is a common question. Due to the nature of teachers’ work and the research about the most effective way teachers improve, PL days are crucial.

Teachers’ work is very collaborative. Even though most teachers work on their own in classrooms with a set number of students, they also work with lead teachers in literacy, numeracy, technology and English as a Second Language. Speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, other teachers, educational assistants and administrators also embark on PL.

Teachers’ work is constantly responsive. Daily lessons and plans are built and delivered in response to student needs and assessments of how they progressed in the days before.

Teachers’ work requires them to understand the complex needs of students. In the average classroom, teachers have students from different cultures, abilities, levels of mental health, different social skills, emotional needs and physical needs.

Teachers’ work carries on after classes end for the day. Teachers use that time to meet with parents and others regarding plans for individual students. They coach and plan for extra-curricular activities. They review student work and enter data into tools such as PowerSchool and FreshGrade to communicate progress to parents and students. They respond to emails from peers, administrators and other people relevant to their job.

Teachers also have their own families. They are wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. Their family time provides them the balance needed to remain mentally, socially and emotionally capable of fulfilling their role as educators.

The nature of teachers’ work means that to grow as professionals, they need focused time. The purpose of professional learning is to improve student success.

All PL decisions are based on the simple question of how a teacher-learning event can impact students. We rely on research to tell us what types of PL is most likely to do this. Research tells us teachers learn best by talking and doing. Compared to sitting and listening to a lecture, when teachers discuss challenges, review research and collaborate to create lessons, activities and assessments, the transfer to student achievement is more likely. That is why PL days in Lethbridge School District No. 51 are designed to include many opportunities for teachers to work together.

What will administrators and teachers be doing?

On both PL days, school administrators and teachers will be meeting in groups around a specific topic they have identified as an area of need, in order to set their students up for success. They will spend time researched and developing tools and strategies that will enhance student engagement and achievement.

PL days are important for staff training and when it is done well, students become the winners.

Date posted: Nov. 9, 2018