Personalized teaching: Give educators the support they need when they need it

Portrait of confident Asian female teacher in classroomPortrait of confident Asian female teacher in classroom

We talk a lot about personalized learning in schools.

The idea, of course, is to meet students where they are in their educations, by applying best-fit learning strategies and principles that match their own unique situations and needs.

Every student learns differently. Factors such as age, demeanor, home life, and learning styles all must be taken into account when developing new lesson plans and curricula.

But students aren’t the only ones who benefit from personalized learning.

The best schools provide teachers with personalized learning, for everything from new teacher onboarding to professional development, writes instructional coach Maria Derivan-George in Edutopia.

It’s important to realize that most teachers want different things at different stages of their careers, advises Dervian-George. She’s identified specific approaches to address teachers’ needs depending on where they are on their career ladder.

“What educators may want at certain stages in their careers may not be as evident,” Derivan-George writes. “In my work as an instructional coach, I’ve discussed this topic many times with teachers, and their desires vary based on how long they’ve spent in education.”

As you develop personalized learning for your students, don’t forget about your teachers. Here’s a few approaches to help provide relevant training and experiences for faculty and staff at different stages of their careers.

Three or less years’ experience
Early-career educators want to learn and do as much as possible in their first years. They also want to build trust with colleagues and kick-off collaborations that will help them throughout their careers.

Derivan-George suggests three important steps schools can take to ensure that your newest teachers get off on the right foot:

  • Develop a formal on boarding process. Develop a program that gives new teachers a comprehensive “lay of the land.”
  • Pair new teachers with great mentors. Train veteran teachers to be good mentors and understand their personalities and expertise so that you can map those skills and traits to the perfect mentees.
  • Extend mentorships beyond the first year. Many new teachers complain of sudden drops in support when entering their second year on the job. Make sure you develop programs that provided continued and lasting support throughout the educator’s tenure.

Four to 10 years’ experience
Middle-of-the-road teachers are comfortable enough in their careers that they want to branch out, explore new ideas, and take risks, but they also want feedback from their colleagues as they do so,” explains Derivan-George.

This is also a time when teachers seek to develop stronger relationships with administrators, she says.

Here’s what school leaders can do to support faculty during this stage of professional growth:

  • Encourage productive conversations between leadership and staff through Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs. These can take the form of in-person or online meetings. Make sure all conversations have clear goals and outcomes.
  • Get to know faculty members personally. Your busy schedule makes it hard to personally engage with staff. That’s no excuse. Make it a priority to know and engage with classroom teachers, so they feel supported.

Ten or more years’ experience
Veteran teachers want more freedom and autonomy over their lessons, but they still want to feel support from administrators. They also want to pursue new leadership opportunities and career growth.

Here’s what you can do to support these veterans:

  • Ask them what they want. It can be easy to take experienced teachers for granted, but that’s a mistake. Engage your most seasoned staff members and show them that you’re listening by integrating their feedback into your programs or decisions. Encourage them to grow by showing confidence in their skills and input.
  • Support personalized learning. Give veteran teachers the opportunity to explore new teaching strategies on their own and allow them the freedom and initiative to share their findings with colleagues.

It doesn’t matter how experienced your staff is, it’s your job to engage them and contribute to their continued growth and success.

How do you personalize teacher career development in your school or district? Tell us in the comments.

Want a better sense for what your teachers want in their career development? Here’s an easy way to engage them in meaningful conversations about what matters most to them.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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