Leaders and Professional Development
By Amy R. Smith
It has been my experience that the topic of professional development can be met by educators with sighs and eye-rolling. The dreaded word inservice can send shivers down the spines of the hardiest of souls, especially the more seasoned professionals—those who take one look at the agenda and think, “Been there, done that.” One of the more eloquent characterizations of an inservice day that I have heard was from a colleague who simply stated, “We were a captive audience and yet they failed to captivate.” Educators may be provided with a day of training, but at the end of that day they are left wishing they could have spent the time doing any one of the other pressing tasks waiting for them. This is not the best use of resources. As building leaders, how can we take an active role in ensuring that our time spent in professional development activities is meeting our needs?
Inservice days may be particularly frustrating for school psychologists and other instructional support personnel. Too often, these personnel are assigned to inservice trainings designed for teachers by administrators who may not fully understand the specific training needs of these staff members. Yet it is our professional obligation as school psychologists to continually develop skills throughout our careers. The NASP Principles for Professional Ethics Standard II.1.4 states, “School psychologists engage in continuing professional development. They remain current regarding developments in research, training, and professional practices that benefit children, families, and schools. They also understand that professional skill development beyond that of the novice practitioner requires well-planned continuing professional development and professional supervision.” If appropriate training activities are not offered locally, it is our responsibility as professionals to find or create opportunities that will address our needs.
I encourage school psychologists to consider conducting professional development activities for your colleagues in the context of your inservice offerings, staff meetings, or other less formal afterschool or lunchtime professional gatherings. Those of you working in the field can offer each other valuable insight and perspective, igniting professional learning through discussion, case studies, and critical review of professional books, articles, and other shared resources. Take advantage of opportunities to provide trainings on activities and services you have provided within your schools, by sharing practical solutions to issues that you and your school psychology colleagues are addressing locally. Consider also extending this local activity by submitting a proposal to present at your state association conference or a NASP convention. This type of professional sharing is invaluable to practitioners looking to attend a training offered by a school psychologist who is facing similar situations.
Facilitating meaningful professional development is one of NASP's most important functions. There are multiple opportunities available through NASP that allow participation in activities developed specifically for school psychologists. Have you taken advantage of NASP professional development activities in person, such as the annual convention, summer conferences, a Public Policy Institute, or crisis intervention trainings? These experiences allow participants to be immersed in learning experiences developed specifically for school psychologists to meet their professional development needs.
The economy has resulted in the tightening of budgets in school districts and higher education institutions across the country. This makes it more important than ever to consider alternate methods to participate in meaningful training. NASP provides a variety of options to meet the needs of those who may be hindered by limited budgets or limited ability to travel to events. The NASP Online Learning Center offers electronic continuing professional development opportunities that allow school psychologists to earn CPD credits or to simply engage in professional learning from your home or office. Visit the Online Learning Center (https://nasp.inreachce.com), as well as the other educational materials available on the NASP website.
Have you explored the NASP online Communities and Interest Groups? These venues offer members opportunities to connect and share information about specific topics and provide great potential to expand individual skills. The Communities and Interest Groups allow you to interact with other school psychologists and post questions, seek advice, offer solutions, or solve problems with colleagues from across the country who share your interests or face similar issues.
Continuous improvement of our skills is not only an ethical responsibility, it is imperative if we are to provide the best possible service to the students, families, communities, and schools we serve. While our preservice training is extensive, the constantly changing environment in education and the field of school psychology compels us to find meaningful ways to build our knowledge and skills as individuals and as a community of professionals. NASP is committed to supporting you; as a building leader, what will you do?
Amy R. Smith is the president of the National Association of School Psychologists