I am not proud to be saying this but I vividly remember hating in-service days at the high school where I worked for 9 years. I was fond of saying, “I’d rather be with the kids- teaching and learning. This is such a waste.” The professional development (PD) sessions offered were useless, a waste of my precious time. Or so I thought.
Looking back, I think my negativity surrounding professional learning was a direct side effect of being overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by new initiatives, rising student discipline issues in our school, standardized testing, and the shear demands of the job.
Plus, I was somewhat of an oddball- integrating more tech than most- and missing the support of kindred tech spirits. Don’t get me wrong, I had a support system from within my social studies department and a small group of friends but they just weren’t like me. My class was taking virtual field trips; their classes were completing worksheets.
It didn’t help that the PD provided to us did not seem meaningful or relevant. As an early adopter of all things edtech, I was bored to tears by technology training. I already knew how to do “it.” Whatever “it” was. I know technology is nothing without sound pedagogy. Philosophically, I believe technology connects students beyond the four walls of the traditional classroom better than anything else. Yes, I mean anything else.
But here lies the problem. Besides being bored, what else could I have been doing? The answer is easy. Helping my colleagues or the facilitator……or better yet- I could have offered my own instructional technology session to my peers. I never volunteered at the school level (at the district level I was tapped for loads of training for city-wide meetings), nor was I asked to present any PD to the faculty.
Hindsight as “they” say is 20/20.
I am currently seeking my Ed Specialist degree K-12 Administration, which has provided me with ample opportunities to reflect on my time as a classroom teacher and the types of leaders (both good and bad) I have encountered along the way. I could easily point my finger at the school leaders I worked with for the terrible PD offered or their neglect to seek my expertise. But I’m not going to.
You mean I’m responsible for my own professional learning? Yes, yes I am.
I will not give them power over my learning anymore. I am the only one responsible for finding meaning in professional learning. Me. Not an administrator, a state legislator, my current boss, or even my professors. Me. I am the only one responsible for my own learning by relating concepts to my life, interests, and lifting up other like minded educators while learning from those who I respectfully disagree with.
So, here are some ways I have taken back the power of my own professional learning and you can too:
- Remain connected and find your tribe. I use Twitter and Pinterest. A lot. I use both to interact with other educators around the world, share ideas, and to keep up to date with the latest in technology. I participate in Twitter chats regularly. My favorite chats are #leadupchat on Saturday mornings at 8:30CT and #edchat on Tuesdays at 12:00pm and 7:00ET. I also use Pinterest extensively to glean new ideas for tech training and best practices. Follow my TechnoEducation Geek Board for some “Pinspiration” or stop by Twitter and say, “hi.”
- Reflect. When I am a participant in any form of PD, I reflect on how can it inform my own teaching/learning? Are you bored? I would argue that there is still something to be learned from your “boring” experience. It has been three years since I started teaching adults and I’m still tweaking my approach. I suppose I will never be done. Isn’t that what makes a great teacher? Being a life long learner?
- Walk in the door with an open mind. You just never know what you might find! I have learned so much from my peers. Many of my “lessons learned” have come from watching others make mistakes and taking note so I can avoid the same pitfalls. By entering the situation with an open mind, I am able to take nuggets of information from PD and use them however I see fit. Come to the table (whatever table that is) looking to learn and understand rather than criticize and complain.
How do you make sure you take the lead in your own learning? Let me hear it!