I remember writing my first professional resume. I was advised to write, “stays abreast of professional literature” by a mentor in my education program. I loved that line. And I’ve lived into it for 27 years of my teaching life.
I devour professional books, spend time on Twitter (@bluskyz and @catchingreaders) and Instagram (@bluskyz and @kinderunicorns), follow professional authors on Facebook and other social media, read many blogs, attend as many professional conferences as I can, take online courses, participate in book clubs, write in my journal, blog, seek out evening and weekend workshops locally, and love having dinners or texting sessions with my thoughtful teacher friends to “talk shop”. I love thinking, talking, reading, writing and thinking some more about education.
I’m in a place right now where I am hungry for professional learning. Perhaps more so than usual. I’m questioning and wondering and exploring many different aspects of my teaching. I feel like I did when I pursued National Board certification and again when I started my master’s program in literacy studies. I felt this way when I left the classroom and became a literacy specialist and again when I became a kindergarten teacher for the first time. I am at a place, again, where I want to learn and grow and evolve into an even more reflective educator. It’s exciting! Right now, my passion lies with learning as much as I can about the Reggio Emilia approach. This is something I’ve been interested in for many years. I’ve taken some online courses and I’ve read extensively about this amazing approach to education. But right now, it makes more sense to me than ever before. I want to pursue learning about this as a teacher researcher and how this approach can make a difference with our most vulnerable students. I’m currently looking into ways to follow this path of interest as a teacher research project into 2018 and beyond. I’m very excited about what might be possible!
If we are passionately curious and pursue new learning opportunities as teachers, we model this for our students. We not only become better at what we do as educators, we impact student learning in powerful ways. So what will you do to continue growing as a learner and an educator in 2018 and beyond? Here are a few suggestions:
Order a new professional book or two or three.. from Stenhouse or Heinemann or Teachers College Press. Regie Routman’s new book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence and Equity for All Learners and Practicing Presence by Lisa Lucas are the ones I’m starting in 2018. Get together with a friend or a group and have a book discussion club. I’m doing this with Powerful Book Introductions: Leading with Meaning for Deeper Thinking starting in January at my school.
Plan on attending a conference this year. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference is the best professional conference I’ve ever attended. It happens yearly, the week before Thanksgiving. In 2018 it is in Houston. The Whole Language Umbrella, a group within NCTE, has a yearly conference that is smaller. This year it’s in Baltimore in July. In addition to those two major conferences, I’m planning on attending the Annual Progressive Education Summit – Creating Cultures of Thinking in Baltimore in January and the Bank Street 2018 Teaching Kindergarten: Where Did the Garden Go? Democracy, Diversity, Dignity & Dewey Conference in NYC in April. The National Reading Recovery & K-6 Literacy Conference in Colombus, OH in February and the International Literacy Association Conference in Austin, TX in July are two other excellent conferences. I can’t imagine my teaching life without attending conferences. These amazing learning meccas provide opportunities to connect with other educators, authors and friends, hear different perspectives and voices from outside your district and think deeply about your practice and take new learning, life and inspiration back to your school. While most of us take personal days and pay our own way – it’s worth every penny and any struggles you might have to endure to take the time out of the classroom and travel. Professional conferences are a critical piece of my learning and growing as a teacher.
Put in a proposal to present at a conference. Presenting is such a powerful way to reflect on your practice, to share with others the work you do, and to question and refine your own best teaching. Proposals are due soon for NCTE in Houston and WLU Literacies for All Conference: Sustaining Joy in Our Learning Communities during Challenging Times in Baltimore. I will be submitting proposals and making plans to attend both conferences.
Pursue other local professional development opportunities. The Kennedy Center’s Changing Education Through the Arts (CETA) evening workshops are available for people in the DC, Virginia and Maryland areas. Check out their website and invest in an evening of learning for yourself. This is outstanding professional development for only $20! Many universities have opportunities for professional development classes, Saturday workshops or conferences, as do many museums. Check out your local art or science museum for opportunities for teachers.
Create an online PLN (Professional Learning Network). Twitter has exploded over the past 7 years that I’ve been tweeting. There are so many chats and hashtags to follow, and an abundance of educators who tweet and share, question, reflect, inspire and challenge. I’ve recently become a big fan of Instagram. I love the photos and glimpses into people’s classrooms and teaching lives. I suggest finding someone you learn from (an author, a respected professional in the field, an organization, a friend, etc…) to follow and then see who they follow and follow them. Google areas that interest you and find out the chats that are available. Many of these are archived and you can get a feel for how they go. I’m amazed at how much I can learn by reading a few tweets at lunch or waiting for the copier or in line at the grocery store. I hope to be more involved in Twitter chats this year. There are so many good conversations going on out there!
What other ideas do you have for pursuing your professional growth and development? What is the best professional book you’ve read lately? What chats or favorite Twitter or Instagram accounts can you recommend? Please share! Here’s to a fabulous year of learning and growing in 2018!