Trying to create engaging virtual professional development has pushed me out of my comfort zone.
Can you relate?
Since social distancing is our new normal and the new requirement in so many places I have had to think of new ways that I can reach teachers and make my professional development more engaging. Just as I did in the classroom as a teacher, my in-person face to face professional development was all about collaboration. So now, as the teachers I support struggle to increase engagement with their students, I find myself in the same boat, struggling to increase my engagement with teachers.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that I needed to convert some of the strategies I was encouraging my teachers to use with students and start to incorporate some into my weekly professional development sessions and coaching. I wanted to share what was working. When doing professional development online you must remember that there are so many different distractions like kids, pets, Instagram, lesson plans, and more!
So, how can we increase engagement in virtual professional development?
Since I do professional development weekly, it can get a bit boring and stale, to say the least. So, how can I make it more fun? Make it into a competition! This past month I incorporated Professional Development Bingo. This is a fun game teachers can play during professional development or over the course of a week or two. With this game, you decide what you want teachers to do and put them in the bingo spaces.
Last month, I did two competitions!
First, whoever completed all the tasks (well) first and share their digital bingo board with me got a prize, and second, when teachers completed their BINGO board they had to share it with me and I put their names in a drawing to get the grand prize. We have virtual circle meetings and I added the names to the Classroom Screen Wheel and then letting the wheel do its thing! It drew the name online with the entire staff. It was exciting. I gave away a $5 Gift Card to Starbucks.
This year, I am incorporating more flipped learning into my weekly Professional Development model (more to come on that in November) and I will be hosting virtual BINGO PD sessions, and I will give virtual prizes. Each box will have an answer to the question as it relates to that week’s topic of professional development and teachers will participate and show their boards by sharing their screens. I believe this to be very engaging for teachers and I will be able to monitor participation.
I wasn’t sure if this BINGO Board idea was going to really work, but when I get an email from a teacher asking for more information on a topic that I added to the BINGO board I felt like I had hit the jackpot!
The next question I am sure you are going to ask…
Do I have to buy all the prizes?
The short answer… Yes and No!
When I was in the classroom, I created a line item in my budget for classroom decorations, PD, and incentives for my students. When I became an instructional coach, I didn’t remove it. So yes, I spend a few dollars each month on things for my coaching room, and now since I am at home, I purchase small token gift cards to places like Target, Starbucks, Amazon, and even Teacher Pay Teachers. Usually, the gift cards are no more than $5.
If you are looking for ways to get prizes for teachers you don’t have to pay for, you can get donations from parents, businesses in the community, or ask your administration. I am not afraid to ask for anything. What’s the worse that can happen besides the answer is NO. But if you never ask, you will never know!
Remember the prizes don’t have to be big. Teachers love the little things in life like a free cup of coffee, sticky notes, a few “good” pens can go a long way!
We are living in a whole new world with so many new rules. You can help ease some of the stress and hassle by creating fun and engaging virtual professional development for your teachers. Not only will this make them appreciate you more, but it will also make you happier too.