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Teachers are in the business of shaping futures and changing lives. How is your program supporting them to achieve this goal? A great workplace culture, supportive colleagues, growth opportunities, and meaningful work are all keys to keeping great teachers. Teachers want to excel, and the right professional development can turn a good educator into a spectacular one. 

So how can you implement quality professional development in your program? Here’s what you need to know.

The Promise of Summer as a Time for Professional Development

A RAND Corporation study shows that programs powered by BellXcel can inspire teachers to achieve and do more. The study found that nationwide, 99 percent of teachers participate in at least one summer professional learning activity, highlighting the value of offering it through your program. Teaching in an academic-focused summer program may afford teachers opportunities to practice and improve in certain classroom processes and receive feedback about instruction. 

Teachers generally found that these programs were relevant and helpful for instructional practices, but they said that opportunities for developmental feedback were uncommon. Providing these opportunities in your program may offer a powerful differentiator that draws in the best educators. 

Teachers in programs powered by BellXcel were more likely to report that their summer professional learning experiences helped them improve their use of student-centered practices during the school year. BellXcel provided useful insights into the features of academic summer programs that may facilitate teachers’ professional learning, such as the absence of school-year constraints paired with positive and supportive teaching environments.

Academic summer programs may provide unique professional learning opportunities for teachers to practice and improve their use of student-centered classroom practices—particularly positive behavior management and promoting social and emotional learning for students.

Request a demo of BellXcel’s software to see how easy it can be to manage your  youth programs →

5 Strategies to Enhance Professional Development

Incorporating quality professional development and learning into your program centers teachers’ needs and voices and, in so doing, empowers your students to shine. Follow these steps to build a program you’re proud of brick by brick: 

1. Ask staff what they want and need. 

Your teachers and staff are the boots on the ground in your program. They may have identified specific skill sets they’re interested in developing or have thoughts on professional development goals you might not even have considered. Moreover, good professional development is an important workplace benefit that will serve your teachers even when they move on to their next act. To optimize this benefit, you must ensure you’re giving the beneficiary what they need. 

2. Consider the goals of your program.

Sharing your program vision and goals and outlining clear expectations of youth and staff (including strategies for promoting a positive climate and culture) is crucial for program success. Dedicating time for teachers and staff to learn about and practice with curriculum and instructional materials will help to build confidence before welcoming kids. Modeling appropriate behavior management strategies will help set the stage for expectations during the program. 

If your program focuses on social emotional learning, so too should your continuing education content. 

Another consideration is to understand your educators’ career goals, then provide learning accordingly. For example, an educator who hopes to one day become a principal might work on projects alongside your site leader. A staff member interested in becoming a counselor or facilitator may help with family engagement projects.

3. Learn from your most effective staff members. 

Identify the people who are already rock stars, then consider making them instructors. What makes these leaders most effective, and how can you teach those skills? Drawing upon what already works in context is a great way to build skills and even help more junior staff to identify mentors and role models within your current team.

4. Design your professional development program.

Begin building a flexible program that is informed by the needs of your educators and program goals. Instructional practice and positive learning environments are critical, and equipping staff with the knowledge, tools, and support to achieve positive outcomes with kids is key. The best programs incorporate thoughtful planning and ongoing attention to professional learning, from preprogram orientation and ongoing targeted professional development to coaching and feedback throughout the program. The best programs respect educators’ time and priorities by offering a self-paced course of study. 

5. Solicit ongoing feedback. 

Educators know what they need, and they can quickly identify what works and what doesn’t. Provide plenty of opportunities for anonymous feedback, so your team can tell you how to ensure your professional development offerings are the best in the business. 

Your students deserve fun and engaging experiences in a positive and safe environment. Your staff deserves rich resources and professional learning opportunities. By pairing business functionality with programming expertise, the BellXcel platform makes your job of creating happy staff, campers, and families easier. You deserve support as you grow your team into all-stars. BellXcel offers professional development support that can change careers and lives. Learn more about professional learning and development offered on the BellXcel platform by requesting a demo today. 

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Want more information on staffing? Hear from several youth program leaders on their strategies for attracting and retaining team members in an on-demand webinar, “Staffing Your Program for Success.”


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