Educators don’t experience much career mobility. It’s just not the way their jobs are structured. Instead of hunting down promotions, leveraging offers from competitors, and pivoting into new roles, they mostly just try to make a career out of working at the same school for as long as possible.
In most states, that’s the best way to maximize benefits and retirement eligibility.
But there’s another word for that— stagnation. Incentivizing teachers to stay in one spot makes it less likely that they will want to grow and refine their skills. Teachers still do it, of course— because they are awesome. Because they want what is best for their students.
But what if there was a way to upgrade teachers’ skills in a way that boosted student outcomes and positively impacted their careers? In this article, we take a look at strategies to upskill teachers into leadership roles.
Educational Upskilling: The Current Landscape and the Need for Refinement
Educators are legally required to go through professional development seminars, courses, etc. every year. Sometimes, this professional development happens right there at the school. The teacher will attend mandatory, district-wide instruction on a new curriculum or policy.
Other times, the educator is forced to hunt down opportunities themselves.
This requirement is both vital— educators need to keep their skills and their knowledge sharp to create the most productive and effective classrooms possible— and challenging.
One thing teachers don’t have a lot of is spare time. Telling them they need to scare up their own opportunities is not always the best way to maximize their upskilling potential—particularly when the eventual goal is to help educators move into leadership roles.
In this section, we’ll explore what educational upskilling looks like today and how it should be refined to empower educators for leadership roles.
Keep Teachers Up to Date with New Classroom Technology
Education is constantly being shaped by new technology. There are certainly some aspects of classroom management that remain the same even after decades. When the bell rings and the teacher stands before their class they are initiating a time-honored mentor-mentee bond that requires trust, focus, and mutual respect.
But the way those bonds are fostered, the way knowledge is passed along, changes every year. Some of those changes play out daily. Classrooms are now deeply infused with tablets, laptops, prometheus boards, and so on.
Other tech disruptions are optional but important. For example: how the teacher leverages data. Unless the district has a specific policy on classroom data implementation, there may be some subjectivity to this important but ever-evolving consideration.
With grades and most classwork happening online now, student schoolwork leaves behind an enormous digital footprint that can easily be mined for insights into their learning process.
The problem? Educators need to be specifically trained to understand how to process and leverage data effectively.
Then there are other, less frequent, but equally valuable considerations. Covid emphasized the importance of understanding remote collaboration technology. School in the Zoom era wasn’t just about learning how to unmute yourself. It was about identifying digital materials that effectively conveyed the lessons in a remote space.
It was about effective student monitoring and communication. It also required a careful blend of social-emotional and tech-related skills. Teachers received clear insights into their students’ personal lives. They needed to understand how to manage their “classrooms,” in the profoundly personal yet remote environment that they found themselves in.
Tech fluency doesn’t just happen on its own. Continuous training and professional development are essential. Workshops, webinars, and access to educational technology experts can be invaluable for teachers to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge.
However, it’s important to tailor instruction in a way that carefully aligns with the district’s goals and long-term plan. Particularly when trying to identify potential future leaders.
The Role of Social-Emotional Strategies in Modern Education
Education has always been about more than just passing along information. Teachers, for better or for worse, are the primary adults in their students’ lives from the moment the first bell rings to the second they are dismissed.
Social-emotional skills aren’t just 21st-century buzz concepts. They reflect what actually happens in the classroom. Some students carry a lot of baggage with them to school. This is often a considerable barrier to learning.
Teachers who understand their kids’ emotional needs are better positioned to leverage the most effective possible educational strategies. They are also better suited for leadership roles in which they might be tasked to make the most impactful possible decisions for the entire school.
Many professional development programs now focus specifically on helping teachers understand and implement strategies specially tailored toward addressing their students’ interior needs.
The phrase “diversity competency,” may sound unusual to someone who isn’t aware of how deeply a student’s background can impact their educational experience. Isn’t it enough to simply not be prejudiced?
While that was the (regretfully low and frequently unrealized) standard of days gone by, it doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Modern educators understand that cultural differences can make a big difference in how a student feels comfortable relating and behaving in the classroom.
Some diversity competency training can go a long way toward helping teachers better understand their students’ backgrounds.
Fostering a Culture of Continuous Learning
Successful teacher upskilling hinges on a culture of continuous learning. Teachers should be encouraged to view professional development as a constant opportunity to improve and refine the way they reach teachers.
It’s not about telling teachers what to do or complicating their already very complicated professional lives. It’s about treating education as the complicated, ever-evolving thing that it is.
The title and introduction discuss professional development in the context of leadership opportunities. What does that mean for a teacher?
While career mobility can vary from school district to district, there are several paths. Tenure is one. Public school teachers can be tenured in much the same way as a university professor, giving them improved benefits and more job security.
Administrative opportunities are another. Admin careers generally require a graduate degree. However, they are excellent opportunities for teachers who want to shape the direction of their school district.
Regardless, it all hinges on a culture of continuous learning and improvement. The good news? That’s one thing most teachers can get behind.