Providing professional development as the pandemic fades

The pandemic has forced City Connects to grow in ways that have led to unexpected progress. 

One example is the evolution of the summertime professional development programs we run for City Connects’ program managers and coordinators.

Last summer, when we were only a few months into the pandemic, we moved all our professional development programs online

This year’s programs continue to be online, and they build on what we’ve learned about training and about the country’s current challenges.

Earlier this week, we held our first summer professional development event, the annual June meeting for our program managers, who provide crucial training and coaching for our coordinators who work directly with students in schools. 

“This year we covered three big topics,” Rebecca Lebowitz, City Connects’ Senior Manager of Learning and Development, says of the project managers meeting.

“First, we did a lot of work on equity to build our program managers’ professional and personal capacity. We knew that in order to build the capacity of our coordinators who are working in the schools, we have to start with the program managers.”

“We also did a data use workshop. Normally, it’s our research and evaluation team members who analyze the student data that coordinators collect to understand City Connects’ impact,” Lebowitz says. “But we wanted to create a way for the program managers to deepen their interaction with the data, so they could look at the data, ask questions, and make valid inferences. This should strengthen their ability to come together as a professional learning community where people can think more deeply about the practice of City Connects.”

The third topic: “We’ve developed a lot more professional development content, and we’ve created new ways for City Connects staff to access it. Because of the pandemic, we developed asynchronous projects that coordinators could work on, so we’re sharing that. Among other examples, we also have prepackaged professional development materials, external resources on different topics, and a library of case studies that program managers can use with coordinators.”

Later this summer, City Connects will run the annual August Institute to introduce new coordinators to the City Connects model and to give returning coordinators a chance to renew their knowledge. And throughout the school year, professional development efforts will continue among program managers and coordinators.

As Lebowitz explains:

“We’re committed to encouraging simultaneous professional skill development because our coordinators come to us as social workers or school counselors, so they’re growing as coordinators and they’re continuing to grow in their underlying professions. They’re working in City Connects’ schools, and they’re bringing their professional knowledge, skills, and training. So we want to support them wherever they’re at, and we rely on the program managers to do this.”

When she was asked what immediate outcomes she expects to see from City Connects’ professional development work, Lebowitz gave a personal answer.

“Because it was such an extraordinary year, I want our coordinators and program managers to have time to reflect on how much they gave this year. I want them to be able to see what they’ve done for students and communities, and come back in the fall feeling, to the extent that they can, refreshed.”

“Part of the program manager meeting was offering skills, but it was also a chance to show our appreciation, and the best way I know to do that is to thank the program managers and give them the best content we can.”

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