When I was a young teacher at a small school, teacher inservice days were my favorite. We always took an extra-long lunch and went to the all you can eat Indian food buffet nearby. The building was jubilant on those days. We were a scrappy, young school and we rolled up our sleeves and got to work!
Now that I work with schools all over the world, I can see that there are many smart uses for teacher inservice time. Some are fairly simple, some require a bit more investment. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of teacher inservice days at your school.
Eject the Clutter
Take a moment to picture the material storage area/s in your school. How are they looking these days? I’m just going to go ahead and assume that they might be a mess because I have seen enough school storage areas to know how messy they usually are!
Here’s the deal, us educators are “keepers.” We know that money is tight and resources are limited. This gives us a very creative perspective on the usefulness of many items. We keep broken things because they might get fixed or be used as spare parts to fix something else. We see all loose parts as potential art projects.
It is time to get ruthless about what you really need in your storage areas. If it is broken, incomplete, or against regulation to have available to the children… GET RID OF IT!
We once filled an entire roll-off dumpster with stuff from our messy storage area at my school. It felt as though we literally lifted thousands of pounds of stress from the building.
Do your school a favor and use teacher inservice to minimize the mess in your storage spaces. Everyone will feel better!
Prepare Supplies & Schedules
Teacher inservice days are important. As a leader, you must ensure that your teachers can be efficient and focused on what matters. Giving your team a little bit of structure and a wealth of resources is key.
A clear schedule for your teacher inservice days will help people know what to expect and how to prioritize their time in the classroom. Break down how time will be used during each inservice day. Provide a mix of group learning time and classroom preparation time.
On days when your teams will be working in their classrooms, be sure you have provided them everything they need to be successful. They will be making materials, repairing broken items, changing out decorations, labeling, and deep cleaning. You want to make sure they have easy access to various glues, laminating plastic and machine, copier and multi-colored paper selections, cleaning supplies, label makers, and a wealth of office supplies.
When your team has time and resources, they will make the most of your teacher inservice days.
We have a lot of work to get done on the precious days we have in the building without children present. Sometimes, this focus on getting stuff done can take the joy out of teacher inservice day. I encourage you to seek opportunities to bring joy and celebration into your work days.
- Do a Jeopardy-style game with teams when you review mandatory, but unexciting content like employee handbooks and state regulations.
- Hide little fun prizes or loving “thank you” notes in areas around the school that will be cleaned and organized by staff.
- Play a “guess the baby picture” game with pictures shared in a central area.
- Organize an actual game of frisbee, kickball, etc. on the playground near the end of the day.
Why should you use your precious inservice time to play games? Because people love games and when we play together we build bonds and learn about each other. I promise you, having fun is a very good use of your professional time with staff.
Freshen Up Your Workshops
Several schools I know have a habit of bringing in the same people year after year for their teacher inservice workshops. Why not start now with researching new people who might come to your school and do something different?
Have you had a comprehensive equity and inclusion workshop with your staff? How about a serious dive into the function of the human brain? Maybe you’ve not yet explored the gender spectrum in children. Or perhaps your team might benefit from a facilitated experience aimed at improving the communication in the building.
Give your teachers the opportunity to really grow with the next inservice workshop. They will appreciate it and you won’t regret it. Which brings me to my final suggestion…
Have a Retreat
A good two or three hour workshop on important content can be a great use of teacher inservice time, but sometimes you just need to go deeper. I think that school leaders spend too much time making decisions for the teachers and not enough time making decisions with the teachers.
An annual retreat can fully transform the culture and daily operations of your school. Retreats are different than workshops. Instead of learning a new topic, teachers and administrators spend two days having deep conversations and exploring big ideas together.
Strong retreats create safe space for staff to speak openly about their vision and their challenges. Teachers and administrators work together to identify priorities and obstacles. Strong retreats are part reflection, part connection, and part planning.
When administration and teachers spend two solid days having authentic conversations, celebrating one another, and developing shared vision and strategy…BIG THINGS start shifting in the school.
When I do a retreat with a school leadership team or board, I see the transformation before my eyes. It is a genuinely incredible experience to be part of such big work. The children always win when leadership steps up to do the big work.
Are you ready to invite these conversations into your school? Do you want to plan a retreat for a teacher inservice sometime this school year? Let’s talk!
You can find all the details on the Results Retreats I offer schools and nonprofits right here. When you read through and decide that this is right for your school, you can book a call with me so we can discuss your unique needs.
Let’s shift your teacher inservice days to something extraordinary with a Results Retreat. Your staff will be so grateful you made the call!