Where is your next professional development coming from?
Our most fragile learners in school often face the day wondering where their next meal is coming from, how will they feed themselves to get through to the next day; we might see a shade of that same fragility in our teacher professional development system. The impact is not as high stakes, but it has long-term consequences.
If you are a teacher, who is in charge of professionally developing you?
What and who do we think of when we think of professional development? Is there a department, a coordinator, a coach, or a leader at your school who plans your professional development?
Do It Yourself
This is a unique industry. We all grew up in our industry. We know how to learn and teach quite well. Why then do we passively pretend that someone else is in charge of developing us professionally?
The flattening world offers educators the opportunity to reach out for development opportunities on their own without permission.
The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) offer specific content knowledge development to educators for free, just register.
EdCamps are the extreme example of do-it-yourself professional development. They are also the perfect example of teachers applying the Maker philosophy or 20% time to their own professional development, which may explain why we have such a hard time wrapping our heads around those ideas initially.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are another way to access high quality content for free. Coursera offers 87 courses right now geared toward education. How good can free resources be though? Institutions like Kennesaw State University in Georgia were able to offer the K-12 Blended & Online Learning MOOC to over 2000 students because the 6 which enrolled as a result of the course paid for the efforts invested in the course (ISTE, 6/30/14, A.Vega). The university plans to run another session in January 2015.
With which colleagues do you identify? Which characteristics bind you to them? And are you in danger of receiving the same/different development as them? Who makes that decision?
If you feel as though you belong to a subgroup of educators then accentuate that difference. Many professional organization exist which might offer you unique professional development opportunities. You will not “get ahead” if you continue to only accept the same professional development as an entire group.
Seek out professional organizations which can help you reach your goals. EdTechWomen is a recent entrant to educational technology and seeks to promote women in the edtech field. Look for opportunities which put you in a supportive group of like-minded educators working toward something.
“Aha, but what about re-certification credit?” It is true, those who have professional developed you in the past have been the guardians of these credits. It may also be true that you could write your own plans for credit. It is probably worth asking the sanctioned professional developers in your school/district/state about the process or plan required to sanction something as a professional development experience worthy of re-certification credit.
Create a blog where you ask yourself to commit to documenting your thoughts, beliefs, and what you plan to do about them. Track your own thinking over time to narrow down who you are as a teacher and how you will grow yourself and then do it! What better portfolio to have than your philosophy in action over time?
Hopefully the education industry is interested in the metaphor of teaching someone to fish over giving them a fish. We feed students at school, but trust the schooling to be the means by which they can support themselves in the future. Are we acting with any such forethought for our professional selves?