We continue to be amazed at the number of teachers who view professional development as something that is done to them– planned and led by others and often disconnected from a teacher’s actual practice or the school’s culture. One would think that by now we’d realize how silly this notion is and that we gain little in the way of results from such an approach.
A colleague who supervises special education student teachers across multiple schools recently bemoaned the fact that the majority of her student teachers do not have access to professional development. It occurred to us that educators frequently don’t see the many low-cost or no-cost opportunities they have to advance their professional learning.
Summer is an ideal time to discover some of these opportunities as you explore something that you have wanted to learn more about or to learn to do better. Here are some ideas that will help you expand your web of professional learning.
- Books – Do you have a stack of books that you’ve been meaning to get to? Choose one and dive in. If you need book ideas, check out the resources on the Solution Tree Press website; some of the books come with study guides and free tools. An example is our Handbook for SMART Teams: Revitalizing Best Practices for Collaboration. The Handbook is accompanied by 16 free printable reproducibles! By the way, most authors would love to hear your thoughts about their work and answer your questions.
- Videos – A favorite source of ours is The Teaching Channel. There are countless teachers represented and engaging videos on a range of topics. For example, Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 National Teacher of the Year, contributes to the site. When you subscribe to her newsletter, she leads you to a focused topic or video from her classroom that shows exactly what she and her students are doing with regard to a key topic, strategy, etc. There’s also a Q & A section on the site.
- Blogs – Great ideas in short thought-provoking reads – how cool is that? Bill Ferriter is a sixth grade teacher in North Carolina. Bill is a Solution Tree Author, among other things, but he writes (and sometimes rants) as a teacher. His blogs are always real. Jill Gough, a teacher and coach in Georgia, writes a blog entitled Experiments in Learning by Doing. While her field is mathematics, she writes brilliantly about what she’s studying at the time. Check out how she uses a technique called Sketch Notes to illustrate key concepts. Jill and her learning community’s summer read is The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle. It’s also on our list to read.
- Twitter – 140 character bursts of links, thoughts, etc. While it can feel overwhelming, if you peruse Twitter with a purpose or search for a topic it can connect you with others who are learning the same thing. What is an Authentic Professional Learning Community?, written by Shirley Hord for Learning Forward, was tweeted by @AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership). We can learn globally from anywhere!
- Pinterest – It’s not just for recipes, DIY, or how to decorate! Search for a topic of interest and you’ll find loads of ideas to peruse. Here’s what a search for professional development yielded.
- Colleague meet-ups – have coffee, lemonade, or an adult beverage and talk about what you are learning while you have the luxury of some free time without bells and schedules.
What other ideas or sources do you have? We’d love to hear your ideas and how these suggestions have worked for you. By the way, don’t forget about a little brain candy reading this summer too – we can all use a break.
Happy (summer) learning!