In the New Year, many teachers are between semesters in their teacher training programs. Savvy school district administrators take advantage of this lull in academic rigor to bring in staff development consultants to help champion new initiatives. They want to bring everyone up to speed on changing environments in the classroom, for old teachers and newly minted professionals.
At least they are doing this if they have the funding for it. It never seems to make any difference, in robust budgets or lean years; there are not enough dollars for PD. It really needs to be our first priority and it’s a great way to start a relationship with a foundation. Asking for funds for teacher training shows the grantor that you want to deliver services in a professional and well-advised environment. You can’t embark on a blended learning project if your teachers don’t have a clue what blended learning is or how it can make a difference in the classroom.
One challenge is finding and hiring the right consulting firm. They seem to be everywhere, and there aren’t any ratings for them. If I’m wrong about this and there’s a site that rates professional development companies, please let me know. There’s a job for someone.
One place to start is to ask questions of a familiar foundation representative you already know from other projects. They are intimately acquainted with the good, bad and ugly in the world of consultants and teacher training projects. Another way to get this information is to go to a big foundation’s website and look through successful programs they have funded in the past. If they are touting the X,Y,Z district’s new PD project for blended learning, find out who they hired to do the PD. The phone is a wonderful tool, and you’ll be amazed how forthcoming people can be if they are proud of something.
The days of closely guarding your strategies are over. Grant writers now routinely share their narratives and budgets with each other. It’s in everyone’s best interest to know the rules of the road, and to learn what works. A foundation won’t share applications from other schools, but they will give you phone numbers for people in districts who can help you sort it all out. Networking is a wonderful thing.
When you are invited by your state department of education to go to a regional conference, don’t wrinkle your nose and say, “I don’t have time.” Get in the car, offer to drive your Principal there with you and take advantage of that quality time to pick her brain on everything relevant to your project. What is her vision for your school? Being a principal can be lonely, you may find she bares her soul in the front seat of your car.
At the conference, there will be a bazillion tables set up with brochures, leaflets, and business cards from PD professionals. At lunch, start up a conversation with one or two, they’ll be happy to tell you about their services, you might find a perfect match.
Some professional development resources:
- ASCD – the big kahuna of PD providers
- Annenburg Learner
- Free Stuff and Online PD courses
- Your State Department of Education website
- PBS Teacherline
- NEA Foundation – PD grants
- Fund for Teachers
Just Google “grants for school professional development” and be amazed at what pops up.