Thursday, June 23, 2016

Professional Path and Study Considerations

Recently the intersection of the final chapter of the Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI) and the end of the school year created a situation similar to when you're standing at the ocean's edge while one wave is retreating and the other is coming in, and as you may imagine there was a professional splash!

As the wet waves of professional events rose around me, I found myself in a bit of disharmony about where to go and what to do. The exhaustion at the end of the school year can do that to an educator.

After some hours of thought and follow-up action, I recognize that we have to be very strategic about our professional paths, and part of that strategy involves knowing yourself, understanding the parameters, policies, and protocols that exist, and making sure that you cover all basis with regard to your professional plans.

When responding to the RFP for the NCTM INNOV8 conference, I just expected that if we received approval, we would be able to access funding. In the future, I'll make the time to discuss RFP proposals with administrators in advance to see if funding might be available should we receive approval.

Also as I think of the old waves and new waves splashing me at the intersection, I realize that, in many ways, my professional path is coming up against the disruption of old and new learning paths. There's much to consider as we think of our professional paths today--much to consider from the professional's point of view as well as a system's point of view. As I begin to think about this, I'm cognizant about the following changes in knowledge and practice that impact teaching and learning professional paths today:

Online Learning
Online learning is taking hold. Educators are opting more and more to learn from the comfort of their homes on their own time as they develop their professional craft and skill. This is impacting conference attendance, planning, and events.

Real-Time Collaboration
Educators will become more discerning about the real-time events they choose to attend. The event my colleagues and I wanted to attend was well chosen as the event features thought leaders in math education and targets a main issue with regard to teaching math well which is how to teach the struggling learner. While the system did not have the money to support us, I still believe it would have been worth the money to send us to this event--an event that could further our system-wide efforts in this area of need.

Lead Time
Systems can no longer operate with last-minute effort and thought as this kind of work means that the results are likely to be diluted and superficial. In today's world it is worth the efforts of all to strategize in timely ways that provide educators and systems with the needed lead time for good process and access to the best tools and needed time to learn and teach well.

Good Process
Similar to lead time, the days of sloppy process are over too. Sloppy process will result in less than desired results. The magnificent tools at our fingertips gives us the luxury to work together to utilize deep, profitable, and thoughtful process--the kind of process that truly makes a difference. We can't be satisfied with sloppy process that's late, exclusive, lacking clarity, inefficient, and without thought.

Problem Analysis and Honest Results
Too often schools don't utilize deep problem analysis that's honest and forward thinking. We are satisfied too often with superficial results. It's important that we all go deep and analyze well to make significant improvement in what we can do for students in schools and beyond.

As I think of my professional path and the elements above, I'll do the following:
  • I will seek outside-of-school supports that are cost efficient and well matched to my professional learning needs.
  • With regard to in-school supports, I'll work closely with the principal, team, and other administrators to clearly understand what's available, advantageous, and accessible with regard to dollars and time.
  • Like most educators, I'll continue to take advantage of the multiple online resources that are available to develop, organize, share, and employ professional learning in ways that matter.
  • With the knowledge that this excessive pool of available resources can be overwhelming, I'll target my professional growth to the areas of math teaching/learning, cultural proficiency, the struggling student, and leadership skills and affect.
Educational systems today have to be cognizant of the changing landscape of professional development/learning as well as application and deployment of professional skill. Old time hierarchies are no longer effective while greater use of distributive leadership models enrich what we can do with and for students. Similarly old structures of professional learning need to change too--the old time sit-and-git learning is only useful if the presenter has knowledge everyone is hungry to learn, otherwise we have to think differently about the ways we create and deploy professional learning events. We have to focus on depth, collaboration, and results in this regard. I'll think of this as I work with my team to plan the ECET2 for Massachusetts educators focused on Teaching ALL Students in the days ahead. 

Crafting one's professional path is an important task for all educators. It's a task that involves reflection, strategy, time, dollars, and focus. Where will your professional path take you in the year ahead, and how will the organizations you belong to support your journey? These are important questions to consider on your own and with colleagues in the days ahead.