By CO Fellow Troy Rivera

Teachers are being asked to do more than they ever have before, making it a more difficult and demanding profession. In short, the bar is being raised for kids, schools, and teachers. We need to improve the systems that educate, train, and develop teachers so that they are redesigned to fit the needs of 21st century teachers.

It worked one time, but the next time I had to adjust. 

This is standard fare in my classroom. One specific teaching style never fits all students. Teachers need to constantly adjust their approach to providing instruction.

However, in education, we don’t wait for this to happen. We have to be ready for adjustment daily. We always seek to improve. Teaching is a demanding job, today more so than ever. Educators and students alike are being held to higher standards. In order for educators to successfully teach students, our methods of instruction and engagement need an update. 

I have been an educator for over 14 years. Each year brings new challenges to my teaching. As an educator, I have the option of plateauing or improving. I choose to improve. We live in a society in which change occurs every second, and my teaching must reflect the world in which we live. 

In order to best serve students, educators must have access to ample training opportunities. Professional development is key to our success in the classroom. As students’ learning abilities change, so do educators’ methods. With new technology, like Smartboard tablets, Chromebooks, and cell phones, educators have more opportunities to reach all students. But educators first have to know how to utilize it. 

It is imperative that current and future educators understand the need of improving our craft. Many institutions of higher education are reevaluating and redesigning their educator programs to produce educators for the 21st century. Our schools and districts need to do the same.

We must step back and reevaluate professional development. We must look at what is working and redesign what is not. I remember attending a professional development training that focused on providing educators with valuable instruction tools to support the diverse needs of students. The training provided some tools; however, participating teachers never received any sort of follow-up or support. Sometimes taking a step forward is scary and challenging. But in order to inspire and engage all students, we must improve.

Since the bar is being raised for teachers and students alike, schools and districts need to reevaluate and redesign professional development. I always try to answer one, important question: What do you take into consideration when creating professional development?” So many times, when I have asked other teachers and professional development leaders this very question, I have received lackluster replies. Once, a teacher told me, “Normally, we just go year by year.”

This response worries me.

In my educational leadership graduate programs, we were taught to look at professional development in the stages of now, 3-year, and 5-year increments. A long term plan must be in place in order for meaningful goals to be achieved. 

Thankfully, there is a national push to improve professional development for teachers. Groups like TeachStrong—a diverse coalition of over fifty education organizations—are uniting around modernizing and elevating the teaching profession, and ensuring that teachers receive the tools and support they need to be successful.

We can no longer allow ourselves to avoid the need to improve. We must create and embrace opportunities to become better educators.

Troy Rivera teaches High School English at University Schools in Greeley, Colorado. He has been teaching for over 14 years at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Troy is a fellow with America Achieves, and his mission is to make all his students successful, lifelong learners.