School Safety—It’s Time to Give Teachers the Training They Deserve

Teachers want the professional development that supports an ongoing culture of safety in schools—and they’re under more pressure than ever.

School violence in the US has become a cultural maelstrom, and two groups—teachers and students—stand in the eye of storm, in dire need of our active support. In a March 2018 survey, when asked what they most wanted when it came to violence prevention, teachers replied resoundingly that ongoing professional development would help them proactively support at-risk and troubled students day-to-day. 93% of teachers stated that they want this kind of development on an ongoing basis. Less than half of them have received it. And a third report that their schools don’t offer it at all.
 
But every teacher deserves professional development—in the form of practical, substantive training—so that they can safely and confidently focus on teaching. And every student deserves the benefits of a safe and productive learning environment.
 
Though it presently dominates our headlines, gun violence in schools is just one of many reasons that teachers in the US find themselves in a profoundly vulnerable position. The Learning Policy Institute (LPI) has done extensive research into what drives educators out of the profession—among top attrition factors, poor preparation and lack of support for teachers facing challenging working conditions figure significantly.
 
It’s also critical to note that in addition to a dearth of strategic support and professional development, teachers tend to be significantly undercompensated—their reported average pay is often inclusive of their benefits, which means their actual take-home pay is thousands less than the figures commonly documented. Teachers are under real pressure, which is why any measure of development that can sustain them is vital. And while organizations like the LPI can synthesize data and propose solutions to teaching turnover, no amount of analysis can equal the positive action that administrators can take to empower and enrich their school districts with staff training.
 
 

Training is a form of professional development that builds reliable skills and promotes lasting culture change.

Supplying on-site crisis prevention training—the kind that focuses on day-to-day, proactive strategies that give educators the confidence and skills to thrive in their roles—is a choice that administrators can make immediately. And its effects can change the educational climate, positively, for the long-term.
 
Teachers confirm that getting professional development in the form of ongoing, on-site violence prevention training helps them increase their direct instruction time—reducing stress through improved collaboration and confidence. And administrators report that training builds critical camaraderie between educational staff that bolsters them in their work. “Training helps them hear that they are not isolated in dealing with problem behaviors in their own schools. It gives all a chance to come to a common solution,” reports one.
 
When teachers get the professional development they need to proactively address challenges like risk behaviors, students thrive. “[Training] has helped the students be able to stay in the classroom. They are more accepted by their peers and they have been able to learn more and have confidence in their own abilities,” says an educator who tracked measurable outcomes after participating in district-wide violence prevention training.
 
 

Staff turnover can lead to unlimited costs, but investing in professional development yields countless dividends.

Have you crunched the numbers on what teacher turnover is really costing your school district? A year’s average turnover can not only exceed more than a million dollars per district—it’s also been tied to adverse student outcomes. In addition to the stress it places on educators and their families, a lack of meaningful professional development for teachers passes harm onto students. The lack of support for teachers does systemic damage not only to our schools, but to our society.
 
Compared to these staggering and ever-accruing expenses, making the dedicated investment in certifying staff to train and support their peers is not prohibitive—particularly compared to the measurable dividends yielded in staff, student, and district outcomes.
 
The air is thick with opinions and analysis on the pressing issue of school violence—but we must listen for the voices that matter most—those of teachers and students. They deserve, more than ever, substantive support from the communities around them. Every staff member can be trained. Every student must matter. And when this happens, every school becomes safer.
 
A paradigm shift is critical. We must stop contextualizing the needs of educational staff and students as problematic, and instead view these individuals as cherished agents of our societal potential and lives worth celebrating and supporting. Schools are the gardens in which tomorrow’s civilization is cultivated. The degree to which we nurture our schools, by providing meaningful development and safety to staff and students, predicts what kind of a future we’ll yield. What kind of a world do you want to live in? If you envision a safer and more peaceful one, we must empower adults with the skills and confidence to give children the best education possible. And we must start now.
 
Remember—there’s no single mandate, product, or philosophy that can eliminate the possibility of violence from our world. But each of us can collaborate with our actions to make the world safer and more caring. There’s no better place to start than our schools—where today’s and tomorrow’s citizens are in direct contact with one another.
 
Check out more firsthand accounts of how CPI training empowers educators and supports student success—from the educators that are using our training every day as part of their ongoing culture of safety and caring.
 
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