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August 18, 2022 Haeli Harris

Fun Professional Development Ideas for Teachers to Improve Mental Health

Have you ever heard groans or seen blank expressions from teachers during a professional development (PD) session? 

Teacher professional development is often given when teachers would rather be at home with their families after school hours or on the weekends. This fact alone distracts teachers’ attention and decreases their morale.

Granted, professional development is crucial for teacher success. All educators require a certain amount of credit hours for professional development to renew their teacher certification. 

One benefit of constant professional development for teachers is that they will always keep up to date on industry best practices and learn current information that will give them the best tools for student success. As teachers grow, so will their students. 

So, how can we make professional development more engaging for teachers? You can do this by making professional development both fun and more effective. Here are six ideas for teacher professional development:

  1. Keep It Short and Sweet
  2. Keep Learning Active
  3. When You Can, Play a Game
  4. Have Teachers Share Their Wisdom
  5. Host a Book Club
  6. Teach Teachers About Mental Health 

Professional development can be an opportunity to help teachers improve their mental health as well. Some professional development skills can apply to teacher mental wellbeing. 

Some ideas for teacher professional development are:

1. Keep It Short and Sweet

Our first idea for teacher professional development is to try your best to keep the professional development in short sessions to retain attention. Even the most engaging content can feel boring after an hour.

One idea for professional development for employees is to limit sessions to roughly 20 minutes to an hour at a time. Even if your content must be delivered for several hours at a time, you can help time move more quickly by shortening your lecture time into smaller segments with breaks or activities. 

Can some of your lesser experienced employees benefit from an introductory professional development? Younger teachers who have been around technology for a majority of their life will find the elementary technology lessons to be a bore. Teachers with limited experience with technology may become overwhelmed and anxious if they are bombarded with a lot of new uses of more complicated technology.  

Another teacher professional development tip is to make the information pack a punch! You could create a funny video that includes some of your school’s inside jokes and references your school’s culture. 

Lastly, give practical uses of the PD. Illustrating the usefulness and applications of professional development can really help teachers feel that their time is valuable. Be wary of telling too much off-task information.

2. Keep Learning Active

No one enjoys learning from a long lecture. You can make professional development more fun by giving teachers the reins on whatever teacher development you may be providing through active learning.

Active learning looks a lot like self-discovery. One tool you could use for this would be creating a digital scavenger hunt or holding a discussion. 

Many teachers love to share their personal experiences and voice. Veteran teachers could offer wisdom on what they have learned over the years and new teachers could offer ideas on emerging technology or think of creative solutions with their fresh outlook.  

This professional development idea is also great for staff onboarding, as it can help the teachers explore their new step in their career at their school and familiarize themselves with the campus, your school’s purpose and values, and the responsibilities that they must fulfill. 

3. When You Can, Play a Game

In education, many of the skills that teachers utilize in the classroom are soft skills, which relate to how an individual reacts and relates to others. Not only that, but soft skills are valuable to teach to students.

Learning to master soft skills can help teachers’ mental health as well by helping them foster deeper connections, gain confidence, and improve emotional intelligence.

A fun idea to incorporate into your professional development is to use team-building games to promote soft skills in the workplace. 

Some of the soft skills you may want to develop in your school may be:

  • CommunicationFun Professional Development Ideas for Teachers to Improve Mental Health - teacher with back to camera writes on whiteboard in classroom
  • Teamwork
  • Empathy 
  • Problem Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Adaptability

You can use the games you play to develop these skills. Each game should illustrate how to use soft skills in everyday life, replacing the need to lecture about it for lengthy periods. 

Some examples of this could be an interdepartmental basketball game, a pantomime game led by your school’s theater teacher, or an escape room. 

At the end of the game, take an opportunity to reflect with your staff. Ask them about their takeaway from the game and what lessons they learned. 

You could also integrate this game into the curriculum, as social-emotional learning is so important. 

This professional development activity will be one that your teachers will remember for years.

For more fun team building activities to do with your staff to boost mental wellbeing, check out this article.

4. Have Teachers Share Their Wisdom

Teachers, especially those who have been working in the field for many years, may have sage advice to offer during professional development. They have mastered several skills such as setting healthy boundaries, managing stress, and other important skills.

Every teacher has different methods that work for them. By listening to multiple perspectives and different classroom management styles, educators can learn what is best for them.

Try presenting opportunities for veteran teachers to mentor first and second-year teachers on a one-to-one basis. It is an excellent way for new teachers to feel supported on campus and for veteran teachers to feel validated.

You could also have teachers contribute toward a staff bulletin board with nuggets of wisdom. 

On a table, include a polaroid camera and pieces of paper where teachers can write their name, their role or the subject they teach, and a piece of advice they would give another educator.

Afterward, display the responses and the polaroids on a bulletin board in your faculty lounge. 

5. Host a Book Club

A fresh approach to professional development could be to host a book club. There are many excellent books that you could select to share with your staff. Here are some books to consider: 

To make the experience efficient, have different book club groups organized based on the subject or grade level they teach. Have each department lead select a book that they best feel represents what they would like their department to learn. 

Be sure to let your groups know in advance when they need to read the book. 

Plan to have the book club in a fun, relaxed environment. An engaging idea is to host the book club at a local restaurant, bar, or coffee shop. 

6. Teach Teachers About Mental Health 

It is likely that teaching teachers about mental health is required in your school district. You will need to provide a professional counselor to train your employees about mental health.

Teachers will often be required to learn about youth mental health to support their students. A way to make this mental health training more inviting for teachers is to make learning active like we mentioned earlier. Give your teachers activities during the training to help them stay engaged.

For example, you could have your teachers enact scenarios they may encounter in school. Another tip you could use in training is to have teachers respond to a prompt based on their knowledge of students’ mental health. They have likely responded to a student who has struggled with their mental wellbeing. A counselor could give advice based on the responses of educators and explain which  approaches may or may not be helpful. 

Lastly, the counselor could help teachers develop a plan around the teacher’s self-care routine. In response to a potential crisis on campus, it is important for teachers to create a self-care plan. Some great ideas for a self-care plan could be a weekend getaway or staycation, a massage, a jog around the neighborhood, or anything else that is a healthy coping mechanism.   

For more ideas on delivering mental health training during your typical teacher professional development, read 7 Steps to Train Teachers About Mental Health

 

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Disclaimer

By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Haeli Harris

Haeli Harris, LMFT is the Lead Counselor at Nivati. She has been practicing as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2014. Haeli has experience working as a therapist in private practice settings, residential facilities, outpatient treatment care, schools, and telehealth.

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, UT & HI
Registered Yoga Teacher 200
Trauma Conscious Yoga (2021)
Clinical Member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy

Education
Bachelor's of Science Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, University of Utah
Master's of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, Northcentral University

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