PD outside the box
Innovative ideas from Costa Rica
Providing great PD on a tight budget is always a challenge. Lural Ramirez, Director at the Centro Educativo Futuro Verde and her team have been implementing a creative solution.
The stark reality of PD
When I left my teaching career in the United States to work as the head of school at an international school in the middle of the jungle in Costa Rica I never imagined just how much I would miss regular professional development opportunities especially designed for educators. In my 12 years of teaching in the US, I regularly attended statewide and national education conferences. I was up to date on topics related to leadership, assessment, curriculum, instruction, and bilingual education.
After my first year amongst the strangler figs, I felt like I was falling behind. As I considered my young staff, most with Bachelor’s degrees and in their first 5 years of teaching, I became even more concerned for their ongoing professional growth and development. We needed more than the monkeys to give us feedback!
The stark reality I was facing as I reviewed my annual budget was that sending teacher out to high-quality professional development would not be possible.
One of the greatest challenges as the Head of School in a rural part of the world is the challenge of providing high quality and relevant professional development for staff. Sending staff out to educational conferences across the country you are in or to other countries is always an option but there are several reasons why travelling far for professional development may not be the best option for your school.
- Budget and time constraints: The cost of sending teachers to the capital city in your country or to other countries for professional development opportunities and educational conferences adds up fast – both in terms of budget and time. When looking at annual budgets, it can be hard to have confidence that the professional development you are investing in off-site is bringing the value you need for your investment.
- Relative impact on whole school and staff: When individual teachers or teacher teams get sent off to learn and grow, the hope is the learning will come back to the whole school. However, practical implementation and training of those just trained off-site themselves is an imperfect process, at best.
- Context matters: Each international school is unique and ‘proven’ techniques that work outside out of your school context don’t necessarily translate into strategies and theories that are equally applicable back in your school site. How can you assure the conference you send staff to will have your specific school context in mind?
A creative solution
At Futuro Verde, where I am the school director, we have found a creative solution to these important dilemmas and I encourage other schools and country regions to replicate our model. For Futuro Verde these barriers to professional development led us to think creatively and to create BHS. The International Conference on Bilingual, Holistic and Sustainable Education is the full name of our conference and we are holding the 4th annual BHS event this June 28th and 29th on our school campus here on the pacific coast of Costa Rica.
This solution of creating an international education conference at our school has fulfilled all of our needs. We save time and money by bringing the professional development to our staff and investing our money in holding a professional conference on site and supporting a high quality keynote speaker. Conference sessions are given by our staff and external contributors, thereby solving the problems related to scope of impact and contextualisation. The context of our conference meets our needs perfectly and like-minded educators from our region join us for two unforgettable days of professional learning and growth as educators. We are also fortunate to attract educators from around the world, eager to experience a teacher-centered conference in the middle of the jungle, just minutes away from beautiful beaches and with monkeys as uninvited, guest contributors!
As Head of School I highly recommend this professional development model for other schools eager to develop staff competency each year, to provide for an educational context that perfectly matches your school’s needs and to invest your money in all staff, each year! To learn more, please visit our direct link to the BHS conference and please join us as an attendee this year – and perhaps as a presenter in 2019!
Lural Ramirez, Director, Centro Educativo Futuro Verde, Costa Rica
For Further Information – Click on the images below
The BHS Facebook page
Feature Image: Students at Futuro Verde