Teachers, who are in the business of learning, should lead the way with their dedication to professional development. Excellence and knowledge are two of my core values, so I am motivated to constantly seek growth as a teacher. That’s one of the reasons I started this blog – to get out of the comfort zone of anonymously teaching in my classroom and share my journey, hoping that others would join me and begin a collaborative cycle of continuous growth.
DIY Professional Development
Before demanding that our students attain higher levels of achievement, we as teachers must first seek those high standards for ourselves through rigorous, continuous professional development. Even if your school district doesn’t offer meaningful professional development opportunities for you, there are still several specific actions you can take to become excellent.
* Take the initiative. Be responsible for your own growth as a teacher. Consider your preferred mode of learning and search the Internet for opportunities that correspond to how you learn best. There are many resources available online that offer quality professional development for little to no cost – websites, blogs, online courses and webinars. I enjoy watching videos on YouTube to see an instructional strategy in action and reading as many books as my budget will allow. Here are just a few of my favorites:
- Laura Candler’s Teaching Resources – This site offers lots of free, ready-to-use resources for teachers in upper elementary grades, although the cooperative learning strategies could be used at any age. Laura also has a great blog that she keeps up-to-date with a strong focus on improving student learning.
- Whole Brain Teaching by Chris Biffle – My new favorite! Every Tuesday, Chris offers a free live webcast about how to use his strategies in the classroom. These ideas can be used by teachers from kindergarten through college.
- Marzano Research Laboratory – The brain child of Robert Marzano, the guru of educational research, his website compiles everything he’s learned. This guy knows his stuff. It offers lots of free resources, as well as an impressive book list if you like to read.
* Write down your goals. For your time invested in professional development to be profitable, you need clearly defined, specific goals. Having such goals in place provide guidance when deciding between all the opportunities that will come your way. They also provide you with a target for measuring your progress. Simply wanting to “get better” is not a goal.
* Partner with a colleague. Choose someone you trust and respect. Establish an area of focus for you to work on together. Last year, I partnered with another 4th grade teacher to develop a more effective instructional delivery system in math. Alone, I might not have started such an endeavor and I certainly would not have gained from her experiences and wisdom. Your interactions don’t have to be formal, just very focused on achieving a specific target. Spending 10-15 minutes a day may seem insignificant, but doing it will have a compounding effect when done consistently. When you add up 10 minutes a day over the course of an entire school year, you have invested more than 28 hours in your professional development. Just imagine the power of 28 hours of deliberate practice on your effectiveness as a teacher and how that could translate into success for your students!
Invest in Yourself
Professional development is an investment in yourself – one that benefits more than just you. Obviously your students are benefactors, but so are your colleagues when you share what you’ve learned. A word of caution – a teacher’s schedule can quickly become packed with many important tasks. Grading assignments, writing lesson plans, attending meetings, not to mention also having a personal life and managing your home. It’s easy for professional development to get kicked down to the bottom of the priority list when life gets busy. While it may not seem worthwhile now, you (and your students!) will reap the rewards in the future.