Monday, October 16th is Planning Day for Duval County Public Schools. It is one of the few days when all the Elementary Art Teachers in our district are able to come together for the day to receive content specific professional development. There are approximately 110 Elementary Art Teachers in our district. There are multiple professional development opportunities throughout the year, but very few that are art specific. This is mostly because there is only one or two art teachers at our elementary schools. School based administration is focussed on other content areas and in some situations, may not know enough about art to offer effective professional development opportunities for art teachers. So the art teacher is often forced to attend workshops and other training throughout the year that may not directly relate to what they do every day.
Here are my Top Five Reasons Teachers Need Content Specific Professional Development.
- Visual Art Teachers need an opportunity to collaborate: Since art teachers are often the only art teacher on campus, they need an opportunity to collaborate with other teachers of the same discipline. Collaboration is the key to growing as a professional.
- Best Practices: Content area specific professional development opportunities give teachers an opportunity to share and learn best practices from other art educators.
- Support System: Locally, a lot of our universities have cut the art education program. More and more Art Teachers are being hired without the experience an internship would provide them. They missed the best opportunity to grow as an educator. This is where content area specific workshops are invaluable. They give new teachers an opportunity to learn from other teachers and ask questions. There is also an opportunity to find and meet with an art mentor.
- Advocacy: As Art Educators, we have to advocate for the arts everyday. We naturally know the value of the arts in the education of the whole child, but we don’t always know how to share this knowledge with the common educator. We also have to advocate for our professional development opportunities. An art educator should prioritize their schedule to attend as many PD opportunities as possible. If art teachers do not attend workshops, it shows school based administration that they are not valuable to the art educator.
- The Development of Future Leaders: Nothing develops a future leader more that presenting to your peers. This is what helped me decide to become an arts leader. Many years ago, I was asked to run a planning day event for my predecessor. That experience gave me the opportunity to see what it was like to lead workshops and guide teachers in their pursuit of mastering their craft. Opportunities to lead in the arts aren’t always readily available. I look for opportunities to help teachers develop their leadership skills by asking them to present at various workshops throughout the year. This gives them the opportunity to become teacher leaders and also allows teachers to experience other workshops lead by teachers other than myself.