Last week I received an email about an upcoming staff development opportunity for my team. It sounded so good. It met our goals, it spoke directly to our growth areas, it was what staff were asking for… and then I saw the price. $7,500! YIKES! That is pretty much all of the staff development budget for the year, and then some. I have always found it a fine line to walk, to be able to provide the quality and quantity of staff development opportunities for my team and still maintaining the budget.
If necessity is the mother of invention, tight budgets are the inspiration for creativity.
Over my career, I have always worked for programs that exist on a shoestring budget: city-sponsored services, school district grant programs, and non-profits. Because of that, I have a rather healthy bag o’ tricks for when it comes to providing staff development at low to no cost to our programs. My top five include:
1. Blogs, videos, and podcasts. The internet is such a wealth of content. Once you get past the cat videos and quizzes there is a ton of great content out there. As you find interesting blogs, videos, or podcasts you can share them with each other. One great way to integrate staff development as a routine is to set up 20 minutes at each staff meeting to devote to staff development. As a team, agree on a blog, video, or podcast to read, listen to, or view prior to the meeting. During the meeting, use the 20 minutes to get each team member’s input regarding the content of the blog, video, or podcast, and how it impacts the work they do. Some of my favorites are the BOOST Breakfast Club Blog, Happier Podcast, and of course TEDTalks. And some sample prompts to get staff talking are:
-What stood out for you?
-What did you like/dislike? Or What did you agree with/disagree with?
-What questions do you have?
-What would you like to try?
BOOST keynotes and Meet the Authors also provide an excellent book list, including this year’s keynote speaker Bryan Stevenson and his book Just Mercy. Two additional books that I have found to be helpful for staff are Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn and Switch by Dan and Chip Heath.
2. Articles or book clubs. Similar to the above, identify a book or professional article for all staff to read. If the book is big, break it up into sections or chapters. Host “book club” meetings where your team can get together in a comfortable setting to discuss the reading material. Using Focused Conversations is one method that can help move the conversation along and keep it focused on both the written content and application to work.
3. Free or low-cost webinars. There is a wealth of free or low-cost webinars available online. Many can be done in less than an hour and come with a professional development certificate, which is helpful to meet the professional growth requirements for the California Child Development Permit. Some of my favorites include Afterschool Alliance, Early Childhood Investigations, and the Office of Child Care.
4. Free or low-cost training resources. There are many agencies that provide free or low-cost training. In California, we have access to organizations like CalSAC and their trainer program, and CECO for online courses. Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute out of UNC also offers a wide variety of online courses.
5. Staff reflection projects. If you are looking for something a bit more personal, consider the Reggio Emilia inspired reflective practice. Teachers are given the time to “Observe: What did you see? Reflect: What does this make you think, wonder, or feel? and Project: What ideas does this give you about how to proceed?”1 Teachers then share back their learning with the group for input and ideas.
I would love to hear more of your ideas regarding low-cost or free staff development ideas. You can find me on BOOST Cafe at @eppispeppy. And please be sure to join the BOOST Breakfast Club blog team at BOOST for our workshop on Thursday, May 4, at 3:45pm.
For breakfast, I had egg whites with soy sausage and red peppers, banana bread, and a protein shake in my coffee.