Importance of Continuing Education for Teachers

Dr. Felicia Bolden
Dr. Felicia Bolden
Elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership
‘Continuing education’ written on a chalkboard.

Why is it Important to Continue Your Education as a Teacher?

Continuing education is important for educators for a variety of reasons. First, the way students learn has changed over the last decades. Students no longer sit in traditional rows in classrooms to receive instruction that is solely delivered by the teacher. Therefore, teachers need to stay abreast on the best current instructional practices to meet the needs of students.

Now, instruction has become multifaceted and complex, and every educator is responsible for improving student outcomes using the best instructional strategies to narrow achievement gaps. Students are now expected to be visible capable learners by collaborating, giving each other feedback, and self-assessing their progress (Hattie, 2012). Teachers also have to compete with students who are savvy with technology and are entertained by social media, apps, and quick videos. Students are accustomed to receiving rapid information and are able to process content in real-time during this digital age.

Secondly, teachers must be able to reach learners at various levels and truly believe professional development positively contributes to students’ overall growth (Green, 2010). Teachers must learn how to adapt their instructional delivery strategies to meet the needs of all learners including special education, gifted and talented, English language learners, and general education students.

Last, but not least, teachers must continue their education to learn how to use data effectively to make the best instructional decisions, while ensuring instruction is also aligned to the rigor of state standards. Valid and reliable data collection and analysis provides a foundation for teachers to monitor students’ learning and effectiveness of their instructional practices.

How to Continue your Education

Teachers have multiple avenues to pursue graduate-level education. School districts may partner with local colleges and private organizations to provide ongoing professional development and/or certification for educators in specialized areas to include but not limited to curriculum and instruction, counseling, special education, language programs, and administration.

Campuses and school districts may also provide additional training throughout the year for teachers to improve student outcomes. Most districts require at least 14-21 hours of yearly professional development, while continuing education programs may range from 6 months to a year, or even 4-5 years depending on the certification or degree type. Also, institutions may make accommodations for working teachers by providing online learning modules, evening classes, and peer cohorts to accommodate full-time educators.

Many programs may have tuition assistance and ensure teachers are provided with support to complete entry exams and paperwork to be admitted into higher education programs. It is a great idea for teachers to fully consider the incentives and offers of multiple programs before choosing the best fit to help them achieve their goals.

Other Benefits of Continuing Your Education

Educators may decide to continue their education for aspirations of being promoted, to increase their salary, to gain additional knowledge, or most importantly to better serve their students. An extended education helps teachers gain a deeper understanding on how to use a variety of instructional techniques and strategies to narrow achievement gaps.

Overall, a graduate-level education also helps teachers better support and mentor their peers. Teachers who mentor and support their peers are also likely to positively impact teacher retention rates. This example of collective efficacy is a win-win for students and teachers. Every educator should have the urge to continuously improve their practices for the betterment of all students.

Barriers to Overcome While Continuing Your Education

There are many rewards for teachers who decide to continue their education. However, educators must also plan for barriers they can face while working full-time and enrolling in graduate school. A work-life balance is important, especially when it comes to family.

After working long hours and pursuing evening courses, it is easy to neglect family and friends, which are the people you will need the most for support. Teachers should create a schedule that helps them maintain the pace of continuing education and time to fulfill their job requirements. The schedule must include time to complete quality work without interruption.

Teachers must also be mindful how easy it is to get immersed in the work and disconnect from others. An alternative practice is to network with other colleagues who have the same aspirations to grow and join programs together. A group of like-minded educators can work together to accomplish the same goals and support each other socially-emotionally during the process.

Lastly, teachers must ensure they have a solid financial plan as some of the programs can be costly. Instead, seek out scholarships and programs through local organizations that may fund continuing education for free or at a significant discount. Despite possible challenges of continuing education, teachers must remember the initiative will benefit students in the future, which is a priceless investment with great returns.

When teachers deepen their pedagogy, students win, school districts are enhanced, and communities are provided with a group of students and educators who can positively contribute to society. Every educator should explore a wide range of resources to continue their education as a lifelong learner. There will always be more knowledge to gain and ways to support all students. Ultimately, it is every educator’s responsibility to focus on a path of continuous improvement in order to better service students.

References
Green, A. (2010). Teachers’ continuing professional development and higher education. Changing English: Studies in Culture & Education, 17(2), 215-277.
Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. Routledge, New York, NY.
*Updated May 2021
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