Monday, November 12, 2018

Professional Learning and Growth: Teach Well

This morning I heard that NCTM is accepting proposals to speak at next year's fall conference in Boston. As I completed a number of proposals to speak, I found myself thinking about my professional career as an educator. While I've always had a loose-tight vision for where I am heading in education, I have not always taken my professional learning, voice, and direction as seriously as possible. I wish, from the start, I had thought of my professional efforts as building blocks towards greater skill and professional impact at school and beyond rather than seeing it more as one experience after another to strengthen and share classroom teaching.

If I were to advise professionals early in their career, this is what I would advise:

Create an Online ePortfolio
Create a vehicle where you will post your goals and professional efforts. After each event, add your professional effort title, the date, and a short description. Though you think you'll never forget all that you do, the truth is that educators are very busy and the multiple events we are engaged in do meld together so it's important to keep an accurate log and make updating that eportfolio a regular part of your professional work.

It's essential to create a reflection vehicle too. The better you organize your reflection vehicle from the start, the better those reflections will serve you down the line. I suggest that the reflection vehicle utilize a blog or website format that can be private or not. The one advantage to publicizing your reflections is that you invite commentary and feedback. Also to publish elevates the seriousness you take when completing a task like that.

When setting up your reflection vehicle, good categories include the following:
  • Classroom Teaching
  • Professional Presentations
  • Systems Think
  • Reading and Research
You may want to break these categories down even more.

Professional Learning Network (PLN)
Take creating and nurturing a PLN seriously and treat members of that community whether it be online or off with respect and care. It's essential to create and nurture a strong PLN with regular connections, mutual support, and collective learning in an ongoing fashion. This PLN will turn out to be your greatest source of learning and learning opportunities. Vehicles such as Twitter, Voxer, Instagram, and association threads and memberships help to support a dynamic PLN.

Choose a Few Professional Organizations to Join
Try not to spread yourself too thin, but instead commit to two or three professional organizations with depth. Take time to try out many organizations and then pick a few that really support your work. Then, in turn, find ways to support and get involved in these organizations in ways that matter.

Grow Your Contribution and Value
Rather than doing more of the same, try to find a few paths of professional learning to deepen and grow. Challenge yourself by offering to present at conferences beginning with local events and building up to state, regional, and national events. In doing this, hone your skills along the way. Seek out support to develop your speaking voice, presentation skills, and the practice you are presenting. As a lifelong learner, make the work that you are presenting and your presentation skills stronger and stronger so that you are gaining a voice in the professional sphere, a voice that is honest, valued, and valuable to those who sign up to attend your workshops and presentations. 

Educators need to continually prune their paths of professional learning and development. They need to reach out, challenge themselves, read and research, and develop their practice in ways that matter. To stay at status quo in your learning community is to stagnate, but to reach out and challenge yourself is to grow in ways that matter. What would you add to this discussion?