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Must-Know Professional Development Topics for Teachers

Janelle Cox

There are a few topics that every teacher needs to be in-the-know about. These topics range from how to combat bullying in the classroom to how to keep your students engaged. From teaching students study skills to learning the Common Core and how to accurately assess your students, we are here to help you keep on top of these important topics. Here are just five of the many must-know professional development topics to keep you in the loop.

Bullying

Everybody dreads a bully, whether he is in your classroom or in the hallways. Bullying is just as hard for a teacher to deal with as it as it is a student. There are many professional procedures that teachers must know and understand when it comes to bullies. Here is a brief overview of how to deal with a bully in your school.

  • Always be on the lookout and closely monitor all areas (restroom, hallways, back of room). Most of the time, bullying happens in places where teachers can’t see, so you must check these places.  If you see a situation occur, immediately break it up and document it. Get ahold of the guidance counselor and principal if needed.
  • Try and prevent bullying from ever occurring by educating your students about it. Have weekly discussions on how to deal with a bully and create a caring classroom community so everyone feels welcome and safe.
  • Let your voice be heard and stand up and advocate for all students. Have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and make sure that all students know and understand this policy.

Study Skills

Oftentimes, teachers don’t spend enough time on teaching their students how to effectively study at home. They spend all of their time teaching the important concepts in school, but lack the time to teach students how they can effectively take that information learned and study it. Studying is a skill that can be learned, and must be learned, in order for students to be a successful in school. Here are three essential tips that will improve the study habits of your students.

  1. Prioritize – Teaching students how to prioritize their time can be a difficult task, but it needs to be done if you want your students to be able to know the information that was taught. Help students get a sense of what is really important by making a list of all the things they must do when they are at home. Then, as a class, rank the items from least important to most important.
  2. Organize – Once students know the essentials of prioritizing, then they must learn how to organize. They can do this by creating goals and organizing what they plan to do each day. It is important to note that students need to know the difference between prioritizing (have to do) and organizing (plan to do).
  3. Managing time – Being able to manage your time is very important when it comes to study skills. This is a skill that students will use for the rest of their lives. The easiest way that students can learn this concept is to have them write down their whole schedule for the day. Then, have students estimate how long it will take them to do each task listed. Go over the list and discuss how much time should be spent on each task. This will help students understand that managing their time is important.

The Common Core

The Common Core learning standards are designed to present a clear understanding of what students are supposed to be learning and know in school. It is essentially a guideline for teachers to follow to make sure that their students are learning what they are supposed to. They are a means to provide clarity to teachers and parents of what is expected of all students in the United States. Many states follow these standards, where other states have opted not to. If you live in a state that follows these standards, then you know how important it is to know them like the back of your hand. These standards are meant to prepare students for college and their career.

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According to research, in order for you to be able to meet these standards, there are five things you need to be doing in your classroom.

  1. Lead text-based discussions with your students.
  2. Focus on the process of how you got to an answer not just the content.
  3. Create assignments that have a purpose.
  4. Teach students how to appeal to logic and reason, not just to the emotions of an audience.
  5. Increase text complexity so students are ready for college and career.

Engaging Students

The single most important way that you can know if a student is truly learning is if they are engaged in the lesson. There are many ways that you can do this, but not all strategies and techniques work for every student. Teachers have found cooperative learning to be an effective way to keep students engaged because it appeals to all types of learners, and keep students engaged in the lesson. Activities like “Think-pair-share” and “The Jigsaw” allow students to work independently, as well as together. These types of activities are a perfect way to reach all learners and make sure that they are all engaged at the same time.

Assessment

Learning is a means of assessment and assessment drives instruction. It is the heart of teaching and learning and without it, teachers would not know if they were doing their job correctly.  Whether you assess students by a test, a hand-written essay, or by using technology, it is an essential element and a topic that is on the top of the list of must-knows for teachers.  Here are some tips to help make your assessment tasks easier and more effective.

  • When writing report card comments always use a positive spin on a negative comment and list it under “Goals to work on.”
  • Rubrics are an easy way to assess students because students will fall into 1-4 categories: Strong, developing, emerging, beginning.
  • Assessment apps like Socrative make it easy for teachers to get results in real time.

What must-know topics do think are essential for teachers to know? Please share your responses in the comment section below, we would love to hear your input on this topic.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.