“This was the best professional development that I have ever been to!” said Tamekia, a teacher at St Benedict’s Child Development Center. What made it the best for Tamekia and her co-workers were a couple of key ideas. One, the training provided opportunities teachers to collaborate, plan and create invitations for learning together. Knowing how valuable time out of the classroom is for her teaching staff, St Benedict’s director Alissa closed the center for two days at the start of the school year to not only discuss new ideas with her teachers but to provide them the opportunity to transform their classrooms so that children felt at home and welcomed. What also made this professional development different than others they had attended was a focus on shared values for teaching. It helped create a unified vision for the center’s environment and experiences they offer children.
Third, the professional development was hands-on. After learning about the importance of providing loose parts (rocks, leaves, buttons, cardboard tubes, etc) in the classroom and creating invitations for play, the teachers took a field trip to Good Garbage: Center for Creative Reuse in Portland to collect materials. Teachers gathered fabric for curtains, pictures frames for displaying children’s artworks, colorful glass bottles to display in classroom windows, cardboard tubes, buttons, tiles, corks, yarn, and zippers. When they returned to the center, each classroom team collaborated to create their first attempt of an invitation to play and add home like touches to their rooms for the children to walk into the next day.
This was more than just a training to attend for annual hours. It was a chance to treat early childhood teachers as the professionals that they are. Professionals who know their children, who are thoughtful about environment, who can see what the children might be interested in and who are intentional about open ended materials and providing experiences that are child-directed and teacher-supported.
To see more photographs from this day, check out our facebook photo album.