One of the best ways to build a happy, engaged team is to invest in your staff members’ career growth. As a childcare or preschool director, you may not be able to pay your teachers the highest salaries, but you can help them grow and hone their skills as early educators—which can be just as valuable!
Planning a professional development day can help you get the most out of your staff training and help you build a strong learning culture at your center. Read on for tips on how to plan a professional development day that motivates your staff, helps them bond, and inspires them to apply what they’ve learned—while having fun along the way!
What is professional development day?
Professional development days are often held with one primary objective: facilitating professional growth and development for all employees. It is a great way for early childhood educators to acquire new skills or refine existing ones and to promote collaboration and team-building among your staff.
Professional development days are full-day events that are held once or twice a year, depending on a school's program. You can schedule your school’s professional development day at the beginning, middle, or end of the year.
Professional development days typically include every member of a program’s staff, from directors, assistants, and educators to custodial staff. This allows you to provide training and team-building activities for all staff members to ensure that your program runs smoothly and has an enthusiastic and healthy work culture.
How to plan a professional development day for your staff
Start with a fun icebreaker
It can be hard for your staff to jump straight into a long training day, so start your agenda with a fun icebreaker to help them warm up. This will help set the tone for your meeting and encourage your staff to engage and contribute throughout the day.
Your icebreaker should be lighthearted and give everyone in the room a chance to speak up and interact. Here are some ideas you can use:
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Group stretches and exercises
- Answering a fun question, like “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?”
- Improv storytelling, where you give your staff a title for a story and then allow each person to take turns saying one word at a time to build sentences, eventually creating a cohesive (if not silly) story!
Share the agenda and the goals for the day
As the training leader, part of your job is to make sure your staff members know what to expect from the session. Before you officially kick off your meeting, share the agenda for the day so they know exactly what’s coming up and how long each portion will take. This will help your staff team—especially those who love to plan ahead—be better prepared to engage and participate during each part of the training.
Take a moment to share your goals for the training day too. Help your staff members connect the dots between what they’re learning and how it will help them become better, more skilled early educators. The more you help your staff see the value of the training, the more they’ll be motivated to get the most out of it!
Share key updates about what’s ahead for your program
Training days can be an ideal time to update your team on upcoming events, changing policies and procedures, or anything else that will affect your team’s work or day-to-day schedules. Remember to save a few minutes for follow-up questions your staff may have too.
Divide your training into two or more sessions
It’s best to break your training into separate sessions so your staff can properly absorb and process all the new information they’re learning. It can be very tiring to sit for long periods of time without a change in activity, so make sure to account for that in your agenda!
Depending on your state and licensing agency, you may have a list of trainings and workshops that your staff are required to take. However, you (and your teachers) may also want to go beyond the minimum requirements and learn about a broader range of early education topics.
If you’re looking for more training ideas, check out the following resources:
- NAEYC online group trainings
- Child Care Education Institute (CCEI) group trainings
- Early education webinars, such as ones offered by NAEYC and brightwheel
- Health and safety training for childcare providers
- Read an early education book (or excerpts from a book) and discuss as a group
- Invite other local experts, such as child psychologists or occupational therapists, to lead trainings at your center
Include team-building activities throughout the day
Plan for some team building activities on your agenda, especially after a long break (such as lunchtime) or in between training sessions. They’re a great way to help your team bond, refocus, and stay present throughout the day.
Here are some team-building activities you can try:
- Have your staff share their favorite ways to keep calm in stressful situations
- Ask your staff to line up in order of their birthdays—without talking!
- A quick round of Pictionary
- Balloon tower challenge—see how high of a tower your staff can build using only balloons and tape
Make space for group discussions
Help your staff absorb all the new information they’re getting by providing plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discuss what they’re learning. After your training sessions are complete, break your teachers into small groups and have them share 1-2 takeaways with each other. Depending on the size of your staff team, you can also have everyone come back together and share their questions and takeaways with the group as a whole.
Support and engage remote participants
A properly planned professional development day should consider all workers in the organization. For example, it’s best to organize an inclusive professional development day for remote participants if you have them. The last thing you want is for them to feel left out while their colleagues are crushing their professional development goals.
Consider offering a virtual component to your professional development day via a video conferencing software such as Zoom or Google Meet. Provide access to relevant professional development learning materials such as online trainings or webinars and also incorporate virtual team building activities.
Have each staff member set follow-up goals.
Ask your staff to silently reflect on 1-2 concrete ways they can apply what they’ve learned. Have them write their goals down so they don’t forget them and can easily refer back to them whenever needed.
Their goals can be big or small, but should ideally follow the SMART framework:
You can also have your staff pair up (or you can assign random pairs) so they can keep each other accountable to their follow-up goals in the next few months.
Announce your next professional development day
Wrap up your training by sharing about your next professional development day. This will give your staff plenty of time to mark their calendars and also remind them that you’re committed to providing regular learning opportunities for them. If you need more ideas on training topics, ask your staff what they want to learn during a future professional development day!
Professional development day FAQs
What is the meaning of professional development?
Professional development (PD) refers to all types of learning that helps your employees grow and develop in their careers. Opportunities such as attending conferences or participating in formal trainings or additional education can all help your staff to gain new skills and refine existing ones.
What do teachers do on professional development days?
Teachers can use professional development days to learn new skills that will help them in their daily profession and get to know their teammates on a deeper level. Typical professional development days will offer specific training, group discussions, team building activities, and opportunities for staff to set goals.
What are examples of professional development?
Professional development includes things such as reviewing state-mandated education materials, discussing education trends, finding ways to improve teaching and communication skills, or creating or evaluating new curricula.
Professional development day is a crucial opportunity for your staff to learn new information and strengthen their relationships with their team members. Teachers can learn valuable skills, collaborate with their peers, and stay informed about the latest education and teaching trends.
Investing in your team’s professional development regularly is well worth it. Setting aside the time for your team to focus on their career advancement will greatly benefit your childcare center by helping you develop more qualified and engaged employees.