Summer Professional Development Courses

Summer Professional Development Courses Emphasize Student Wellness
Posted on 08/18/2020
Virtual Classroom, Laptop

As teachers prepare to welcome students with online instruction, they are learning how to further support student wellness through distance learning and beyond, thanks to the availability of a wide range of professional development courses this summer.

"Our teachers do a fantastic job of establishing relationships with their students, but this is going to feel different this year. Teachers are going to have to think differently about creating a classroom community where the teacher knows the students and the students get to know each other," said Kristen Rulison, social emotional learning manager for Teaching and Learning. "Social emotional learning (SEL) is perfect for that. It really lays the foundation for a successful year of learning."

Six hours of professional development is required for teachers this summer. The online professional development series is separated into six themes, known as “buckets,” one of which focuses on wellness.

“Right now, we’re not seeing students face-to-face,” Assistant Superintendent of Student Wellness June Eassa said.  “How do I build those relationships and what connections can I make? This is all about connections.”

Under the wellness bucket, courses are available about behavioral and mental health, social emotional learning, classroom culture, safety, early childhood education, behavior intervention, and exceptional student support. Each course is either 45 minutes or 90 minutes long and includes implementation assignments that will require specific proof of follow-up.

“It’s important for our teachers to recognize a student in need,” said Dr. JeTawn Shannon, manager of the Department of Behavioral and Mental Health. “A lot of what we do is being able to ensure that our staff members can recognize if a student needs assistance, building relationships so students are comfortable enough to let a teacher know if they need help, and making sure our staff knows how to connect that student to the appropriate resources.”

The behavioral and mental health courses are separated into the following five topics:

Mental Health 101
Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health
Positive Redirection
Mindfulness as a Coping Strategy in Times of Stress
Cultural Humility and Racial Equity Through a Trauma Lens

So far, about 2,300 teachers have enrolled in the above courses, which offer useful strategies for both remote and in-person instruction. These courses remain open until December 2020.

Social emotional learning is becoming a bigger focus across the District this upcoming school year. There are now District-wide SEL guidelines and resources, including weekly themes. There will also be a rollout of signature SEL practices, such as welcoming rituals and optimistic closures.

“SEL is the foundation for learning,” Rulison said. “You have to feel safe, have a sense of belonging, and mutual respect there to be able to learn from your teacher and peers.”

The following SEL and classroom culture topics are divided into eight course offerings:

Implementing the SEL Guide and Best Practices in a Blended Learning Environment
Building Upon SEL Best Practices in a Blended Learning Environment
Fostering Self Efficacy
Establishing Classroom Management
Early Childhood Education and SEL

About 2,000 teachers have already enrolled in SEL and classroom culture-related courses. There have also been about 1,000 enrollments in safety-related courses which give teachers the knowledge to manage chronic disruptive behavior in distance learning as well as how to utilize de-escalation techniques tied to Positive Behavior Support (PBS) and CHAMPS classroom management.

The following behavior intervention and support topics are covered over 12 courses, including specific ESE-focused courses for general education and ESE teachers:

Handling Chronic Disruptive Behavior
De-escalation Strategies for Managing Student Behavior
Supporting Students with Diverse Needs in Successful Traditional and Virtual Classrooms
Establishing Instructional Control in the Classroom
Zones of Regulation
Classroom Strategies to Support Resilience for Students With Diverse Needs
Creating and Implementing Calming Spaces
Conscious Discipline and Returning to the Pre-Kindergarten ESE Classroom

Nearly 14,000 teachers are enrolled in one or more sessions of ESE-related professional development, which is also incorporated into additional buckets. There are 61 courses available through the ESE department in total.

“The best part of providing PD in this way is it has allowed us to provide information, materials, and resources to the entire District,” said Kevin McCormick, director of Exceptional Student Education. “Teachers that normally wouldn't receive this information now have a choice of the professional development they can take that best meets their needs. It's what we ask of our teachers when working with our students. This has been a way for us to model and practice what we preach.”

The ESE Department will be hosting virtual office hours by topic, during the week of August 24 to support the professional development that has been offered.

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