One of the major perks of being an international schoolteacher is you get to travel the world – not just to take up your new post but when engaging in CPD, too.
International schools send their staff to the four corners of the Earth from Madrid to Timbuktu to attend workshops, conferences and extended programmes of development.
In the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) 2020 Teacher Supply report 72 per cent of teachers listed travel and cultural exploration as a key motivator for working internationally, alongside 47 per cent quoting career growth.
So CPD involving travel is a perk of the job. Or at least it was.
Travelling for teacher CPD?
This Covid-19 period has seen a dramatic halt to all of this as schools tighten the purse strings, countries restrict travel and providers move all provision online.
Have the heady days of the travelling international teacher gone forever?
Well, in Switzerland, like many countries, our teachers are going nowhere any time soon. Travel restrictions and quarantine, alongside the risk of bringing Covid into our school community, have resulted in many schools issuing a travel ban.
Yet, our commitment to school improvement and ensuring that our workforce can meet the needs of students remains resolute and we know how important CPD is in ensuring that we offer high-quality education.
Getting to grips with remote CPD
So in our school we have moved all external professional learning to remote learning and embraced the opportunities this can provide.
This, though, raised a question that we have not had to consider before. Should staff do this on their own time or should they be given time for this activity?
We opted for the latter. I must admit It did feel a little unusual, though, to release two teachers to attend the same programme from the comfort of their own respective homes around the corner!
But we have had to realign our thinking about professional learning.
Just as remote learning for our students is not about the medium but the process and engagement, CPD is about how it develops you in your work and should follow the principles of high-quality professional learning
Here are some top tips for the globally connected teacher to embrace remote learning:
1. Embrace the idea of remote learning – not online learning
Effective remote learning will provide a deep learning experience that utilises online technologies to enable you to develop remotely. It should be connected to real-life work and activity.
Select providers that explicitly make this connection; just as you would with face-to-face activity
2. Ensure time is provided, allocated and you stick to it
Value this activity as you would normally. Leave teacher guilt at the remote door and give yourself permission to be wholly engaged with this professional learning that just happens to be delivered remotely.
If it is an activity that is valued by the school, time must be allocated so you can be successful in this work. You are not slacking – you are working!
3. Choose your professional CPD partner carefully
Consider how you learn best and select a partner who will work at a pace and through a delivery model that meets your needs.
The most effective CPD takes note of the learner’s starting points and is tailored towards individual learners.
4. Create an optimum learning environment
Consider the optimum conditions for learning for you – create a place and space where you can concentrate and have no distractions.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies the core conditions for learning and these apply for adults, too – think about your physiological needs, such as temperature and refreshments. Optimise the conditions for learning.
5. Start with the end in mind
As with all professional learning and development, you should start with a clear outcome in mind. Hold this activity to the same level of professional expectations, planning and interrogation as you would normally.
This activity needs to be valued by all as it should be designed to make a specific and identified difference.
Overall we must remember that professional learning and development is not an optional aspect of teaching but core to our work.
We must embrace the opportunity that this situation has presented – even if it means we don’t get the same travel perks we used to enjoy.
Liz Free is director of International School Rheintal in Switzerland
Keen to find out more about how you can access quality CPD while teaching overseas?
Then register for our webinar on Friday, with Tod Brennan and Tes' Grainne Hallahan discussing this very issue: it's live from 8am BST and on-demand afterwards wherever you are in the world