What are the best ways to encourage professionalism among staff and teachers? There are many possible answers, but I would argue a major one is to give them opportunities to be professionals. One thing true professionals do is attend professional development seminars. One thing schools that value professionalism do is foster an atmosphere where professional development is encouraged and expected.
At MY English School we are blessed to have a close relationship with JALT Sendai. We pay membership fees for all 14 of our fulltime teachers and encourage them and our staff to attend as many seminars and events as possible. For the past three years JALT Sendai has run a special weekend event where a well-known speaker presents for a Saturday and Sunday, with the ability to stay overnight Saturday with the speaker at an onsen (hot spring) resort. We require our teachers and staff to attend the Saturday seminar as one of our standard training days, but if they choose to attend Sunday as well we’ll pay for the evening dinner party and overnight stay. It’s not cheap but definitely worthwhile. This year’s speaker was none other than Paul Nation. (The above picture was taken on Sunday with the teachers and staff who chose to stay the full weekend.)
As a school owner it’s important for me to attend as many seminars on teaching and professional development as possible, but my communicating to our teachers and staff what I’ve learned only goes so far–them being there in person and learning directly from a well-known speaker is far more effective. It not only contributes to an atmosphere of professionalism, but the increased quality of classroom teaching pays significant dividends as well.