Ask any educator or program director and they will tell you that one of the single biggest factors to consider when looking to enhance instruction and by extension student learning is solid professional development. This is something all educators and program directors can agree on. There is no denying that when you invest in a robust development program, you get a plethora of positive outcomes not only within the classroom, but also across programs and disciplines.
Studies show that professional development programs have a significant impact on students. This is because high quality professional development programs lead to high-quality teaching which ultimately result in improved student outcomes. Attaining such outcomes require effective leadership to guide and ultimately lead instructors in the right direction.
Professional development programs specifically targeted towards after school Directors are an integral part of staff training. They enhance critical competencies while helping Directors to broaden their vision. In this context, training is of paramount importance for school directors in helping them to understand their role as leaders and administrators.
Despite the benefits, not all directors are able to attend or participate in after school training programs due to time constraints. Taking time away from administrative responsibilities, school projects, assignments and staff meetings to participate in professional development is undeniably very daunting. This is part of the challenge for Directors New York City seeking to maintain compliance in after-school programs.
Professional Development: Why does it Matter?
Whether you are a group leader, activity specialist or director, professional development can have a significant impact on your career. Professional development is important because it provides youth professionals the opportunity to improve knowledge and expand skills in the field. This can be tremendously advantageous for people who may not have knowledge of fundamental systems and methods related to child care.
Professional development, in this regard, is a key strategy to strengthen not only teaching line staff, but directors as well. It helps educators strengthen their performance levels to raise the standard of student learning and achievement. Such in-service trainings are informed by on-going research which promotes the notion that professional development help staff better understand their roles and responsibilities.
This can occur in both formal and informal contexts in the form of collaborative discussion, workshops, conferences and observations.
High quality professional development programs in the realm of after school is focused on effective means by which to address student needs in program and targets specific goals. They cover a myriad of topics including child nutrition, health and safety. These topics are not only important to discuss, but need serious and practical steps to improve child centered learning as well. Directors can reflect on their own practices and the challenges they face during day-to day operations. It is in this context that professional development programs such as the School Age Care Credential are critical, especially for directors of school age child care after school programs.
Positive Outcomes of School-Age Care Credential Programs
There is a myriad of courses which focus on staff training with the intention of guiding program staff to reflect and improve upon their pedagogical practices. However, very few programs have a primary focus on Directors.
As mentioned earlier, professional development and specifically credential programs strengthen the skills of directors to operate programs more effectively.
There are many other benefits or positive outcomes of attending credential programs
A credential program is undeniably an easy way to not only improve your skills as a director, but also expand your knowledge spectrum. Both directors and teachers have lifelong learning in common and seek to meet the criteria of the dynamic emerging technologies. Credential programs allow directors to develop or polish new skills by deepening knowledge and application.
This application of knowledge reinforces the improvement of skills and widened perspectives. Directors have the chance to learn in a collaborative environment where people share their knowledge and experiences to come up with better solutions.
More Observation Time
Such programs not only allow you critical time to reflect on your own learning, but also enforce the importance of observation for improved program performance and staff accountability. For the Director mired in administrative duties, such time is a luxury at best. Credential programs provide an atmosphere of support while reinforcing best practices. This is critical to program evolution and success.
Gaps are Identified
Once staff begin an intentional observation process, clarity is increased as gaps in programming become more apparent. The fact is, most administrative staffers have a sense of the problem but may not be clear on the steps that need to be taken to address such issues. Having clear standards to reference can assist programs in coming up with solid plans to meet identified goals and address issues head on. Such goals may include capacity (both for program and staff), resources, curriculum, etc.
Changes for Improvement
As one cartoon used to put it “knowing is half the battle”. Once one knows where the gaps are, it is easier to craft solutions. Credential programs enable professionals to create a strong foundation which serve as the building blocks for evolutionary change. Professional development training also empowers professionals to make sound decisions based on both solid and practical analysis instead of theory.
Professional and Personal Growth
Credential programs provide an opportunity to grow professionally and personally. It is a process that helps one evolve while expanding one’s comfort zone. Such “stretching” will enhance existing skill sets leading to increased productivity and greater job satisfaction.
Professional Learning- an Opportunity
Professional development within the context of after school is becoming more and more popular as funders and regulatory agencies have increased enforcement due to the recognition that individuals and programs can only grow with the aid of this type of support. The critical nature of this notion cannot be over emphasized.
Credential programs provide opportunities for networking, along with access to leading veterans in the field. Such environments become vibrant learning communities designed to teach, inspire and motivate. For many participants having the opportunity to share experiences and ideas, identify resources and techniques is quite beneficial.
Overall, while challenges exist for Directors seeking out professional development opportunities, the benefits outweigh cost. All things being equal, the field of after school has begun to recognize that high quality programs mean investment in not only resources and materials but professional development as well. Our colleagues in the field who serve in the role of Director have the motivation and passion to run high quality programs in New York City. Commitment to high quality after school programs which benefit our youth start with high quality staff development. Anything less is simply unacceptable.