If you’re a Buffy fan–and I hope you are!–you can read this post while playing “Where Do We Go From Here?” Because I’m thoughtful like that.
“Where do we go from here?” is the theme song for the end of all of my courses for pre-service teachers. By the end of the semester, we may achieve the course learning objectives, but the learning can’t stop when the semester ends. I’m a firm believer that Penny Kittle’s line about readers–“The difference between readers and non-readers is that readers have plans”–applies to teachers too. The difference between teachers who get better and teachers who don’t has a lot to do with plans–making them and then following through on them.
I want my students to leave my class with an answer to the question, Where do we go from here? I want them to leave with a plan. What are they going to learn next? How are they going to learn it? How are they going to share their learning with others?
image CC BY-SA Miguel Pires da Rosa
Continual professional development is about doing things that give you professional energy: making connections, learning, reading, asking questions, helping others, sharing your learning, writing, reflecting, challenging yourself, taking risks, getting involved.
Here are some suggestions that I hope my students will consider:
1. Set aside 10-20 minutes a day for professional development. I catch up on Twitter over breakfast, read a couple of teaching blog posts, skim an article or two, watch a TED talk. Sometimes I find a teaching idea in the morning that I put into practice in one of my classes that same day. Other times, I just feel inspired reading about the good work others are doing.
2. Participate. It may feel more comfortable at first to lurk than to engage, but it’s so much more rewarding to build connections with the people in your PLN. In just 5 minutes a day, you can retweet, favorite tweets, thank people when they retweet you, respond to tweets, answer questions, suggest resources, join challenges, comment on blogs.
3. Read professional development books. I always have a professional development book going. I read them slowly, and I read them one at a time. I learn so much from Penny Kittle, Donalyn Miller, Christopher Lehman, Lucy Calkins, Nancie Atwell, Linda Rief, Randy Bomer, Tom Newkirk, Tom Romano, Georgia Heard, Regie Routman, Katie Wood Ray, Ralph Fletcher, Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher.
4. Read blogs about teaching, reading, and writing. I love Heise Teaches and Writes, Read Write Reflect, Blogging through the Fourth Dimension, Sharpread, A Year of Reading, There Is a Book for That, The Nerdy Book Club, The Book Smugglers, and many more.
5. Blog. A blog is a tool for reflection, celebration, problem-solving, understanding, discovery, community. It is a place to publish your writing, to build an audience of interested readers, to showcase what you’re doing in your class, to share your story. It has one serious downside: it’s incredibly time-consuming. I am sure there are people who can dash off quick blog posts, but I’m not one of them. The more dashed-off it feels, the more time I spent laboring over it, most likely. But even though it takes more time to write and craft a post than I wish it did, it’s worth it. Blogging helps me figure out what I think and need to say about teaching, learning, reading, writing.
6. Have a reading plan. I always have one professional development book going as well as one young adult or middle grade novel. I read 10-20 picture books a week. I read all of the Newberys and Caldecotts each year, and I try (usually unsuccessfully) to read all of the Printz books. I frequently join reading challenges or create my own challenges. In the summer and over breaks, I participate in #bookaday.
7. Identify one new thing to try or improve upon each year. Trying new things and experimenting in the classroom give me tremendous energy. But trying too many new things or trying to improve everything at once feels overwhelming. Each year, I identify one area of my teaching I would like to improve, read a few books on that topic, and develop new curriculum, assignments, and activities.