Welcome back! I love the start of the fall semester because it is rich with possibilities. However, I am particularly excited about this year because of our new approach to professional development. Teachers have been asking for something new and I couldn’t agree more. Professional development should NOT be an event…it should be a mindset! This is why professional learning will now be individualized. Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? So fun, right? Well, you get to star in and choose your own EDventure this year (and, hopefully, many more years to come!). So like those books, we start off today on the same page—beginning our journey together as we discuss school data and goals. Soon you will traveling through the school year, turning pages and choosing your own paths based on the outcomes you desire.
Research on adult learning theory reveals that we need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of our professional learning instruction. As we know, adults (and humans of all ages, really) are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their jobs or personal lives. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented (Kearsley, 2010). This year there will be less of an emphasis on sit-and-get PD. PD will be embedded in your day-to-day thinking, as opposed to a one-and-done event. With all of the tools and resources we have at our fingertips now, learning can happen anywhere, at any time, through many means. As a result, you are in charge of your own PL (professional learning). You will choose a focus, create goals, and implement a plan of action. Throughout the process you will reflect on your progress individually and share your journey with colleagues. YOU are at the center, the very “HART” of this professional development approach. Prepare to engage, collaborate, participate, research, read/watch/listen, learn, and grow!
Starting the Process
Sometimes too much choice is overwhelming. Take a breath and simply start with reflection. Sit and write quietly for a few minutes. Reflect on the goals you have for yourself and your students this year. Think about issues you have/might encounter. What ideas and activities have you considered implementing? What changes do you want to see in either the way you deliver content or in the way students perform? What is new in your content area that you’d like to research and possibly introduce? Have you been curious about any new teaching approaches or technologies? Take time to sit and write or discuss the above with a colleague.
Goal setting will be next! Once you have pinpointed an area of need or interest, set a goal. Use specific language. NOT GREAT: “I want my EL students to be successful.” BETTER: “My goal is to learn more about language objectives and how I can implement these to boost EL student success in the classroom.” BEST: “My goal is to join an EL Twitter chat group immediately, meet with my Instructional Coach about implementing language objectives this quarter, and read articles about fair assessment, grading, and homework practices all semester to help my EL students find more success.”
The Learning Zone
So you want to learn more about X,Y, and Z. How will you get into the “zone”? Learning can take place in many different ways and places. Here are some ideas for where to find your zone. Mix and match them!
- Follow a blog (there are tons of great posts to read right on this blog, in fact!)
- Listen to a podcast
- Pick up a book on your topic
- Read articles
- Attend a conference
- Participate in a webinar
- Join twitter chats
- Sign up for after school PD workshops
- Maybe your personalized learning (PL) involves implementing new technology and researching how to use it.
- PL might even be watching a colleague teach (#ObserveMe) or working with an instructional coach (I know an AMAZING one!).
Think about ways you can slide into the “learning zone” based on what type of learning situation best suits your individual needs.
An important piece of personalized learning is accountability. How will you keep yourself accountable? I suggest that you continue to talk about your own learning with other colleagues. (I would even talk to students about it! Show them that you are lifelong learners.) Maybe you and another teacher can meet to discuss ideas and progress. Or you can always reach out to me (the instructional coach!) for ideas or just to show off your findings. Perhaps you will want to add to a PD Google Classroom discussion or wait to discuss with your cohort. You can always ask teachers to #ObserveMe and get feedback. You can base your PL around a book that you read with others and meet or email often about the book. The more we talk about our practice, the more we will begin to develop as educators.
You started with reflection. Reflection doesn’t end there, however. You should continue to reflect throughout the learning cycle. Check in with yourself or others and talk through your reflection. Keep a journal of your thoughts, successes, challenges. Just ten minutes of reflection at the end of the day can make a huge impact. Hey, you could even take it public and blog about it! Educators around the nation are doing the same and we love to learn from one another. Twitter chats are also a great place to discuss and reflect on our practice with other educators.
A note about vulnerability
Researcher Brené Brown spent years studying vulnerability. As you may know, vulnerability is often seen as a weakness in our culture. Brown, however, argues that vulnerability is what creates authenticity. She writes, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Do you let yourself be seen in the classroom? We ask our students to be vulnerable, to be willing to take risks, to possibly fail, to pick themselves up and to move forward. But do we lead by example? Do you allow yourself to be vulnerable, to take risks, to try new things, and possibly even to fail in front of your students? Let them know that you have set personal and work-related goals for yourself this year. Tell them when you are trying something new. Explain that you are all in this journey together. Failure is part of the learning process. While we are at it, let’s also agree to be vulnerable with our colleagues. Talk about what isn’t working in your classroom. Talk about what you fear, of what is uncertain, about new ideas you have. Let yourself be seen this year.
Are you ready for your Edventure? Need help getting in the “Learning Zone?” I am here to help guide you through this process. This is new for all of us! We are trying out a new approach together and will, undoubtedly, learn from the experience and adjust as we go. Have fun with this newfound PD freedom! Let this year be one of discovery, success, and joy.
Kearsley, G. (2010). Andragogy (M.Knowles). The theory Into practice database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org