Professional development = learning. From sunup to sundown, teachers learn about teaching. No, PD doesn’t require a college course, a workshop, or a webinar. It begins on that first day in the classroom. And it never ends. Learning about teaching is everywhere.
Ms. Sneed’s Method of Professional Development
Our favorite fourth grade teacher attends workshops and conferences, of course. But Ms. Sneed also knows how to make the most of everyday professional development activities. To stay at the top of her game, she seeks out opportunities. “I love to explore, attend, join, and do,” says Ms. Sneed. Yet she cannot do everything. Therefore, she remains selective.
Professional Development by Exploring
Yep, Ms. Sneed has learned to be an explorer. Every day she spends time reading. She leafs through magazines, books, blogs, etc. Exploring keeps her current with educational trends. It grounds her practice in educational research and provides instructional ideas.
While most of her reading is now done online, Ms. Sneed still subscribes to one professional magazine. Instructional Leadership, from ASCD, comes with her annual membership. They also send her five relevant pedagogical books per year.
In addition, Ms. Sneed reads children’s books. She sticks to novels for her grade level and picture books that help teach specific skills or topics. Right now, for example, she’s trying to build a series of informational text activities related to snow. Therefore, she’s currently exploring Snowflake Bentley, Snowflakes in Photography, Curious About Snow, and The Story of Snow.
Professional Development by Attending
“Nothing is more exciting than traveling to a large city, immersing yourself in new ideas, and meeting other lively professionals,” says Ms. Sneed “Conferences and meetings revitalize the teacher’s weary soul.”
In the past five years, she’s attended three national conferences. At the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference, she learned about recent trends in educational technology. Because she teaches a class with a cluster of high ability students, Ms. Sneed went to the NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) conference. It helped her learn how to reach and teach her high learners. Finally, to keep more up-to-date on current educational trends and issues, she attended the ASCD conference.
“State-level conferences provide the best classroom ideas,” says Ms. Sneed. For example, at the state science convention, she learned how to simulate a crime. It was a great addition to her mystery unit.
To learn specific skills, Ms. Sneed participates in local seminars and workshops. Some are held at her school or district. Others are sponsored by consortiums. Over the past few years, Ms. Sneed has honed her skills in teaching writing, dealing with difficult students, using inquiry in math, using various new classroom technologies, and more.
When she attends various conferences and meetings, Ms. Sneed learns from other educators. It’s hard to beat those one-on-one experiences.
Professional Development by Joining
Working side-by-side also helps teachers learn. Instead of joining lots of committees, Ms. Sneed has chosen only a few. That way, she can make greater contributions. And she doesn’t get burnt out.
In order to focus, Ms. Sneed selects committees that meet her needs. Since she teaches a high ability cluster, she’s joined the district gifted and talented committee. Because she’s interested in science, Ms. Sneed joined the science adoption committee. And since she likes planning events, the school social committee was just right for her
Every time Ms. Sneed goes to a meeting, she learns something new. Joining is a great way to contribute – and a surprising source of professional development.
Professional Development by Doing
Often, you can hear Ms. Sneed say, “Try it, you’ll like it.” This teacher is all about participatory learning. She has found that large, engaging projects make her love teaching even more.
Every time she tries something new, Ms. Sneed experiences a steep learning curve. Yes, this is learning by doing.
What kinds of things has she tried? Well, once her students spoke to astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Another time, one of her field trips was featured in a book. She’s hosted theme days, tried new technology applications, and more. Her current favorite is Mystery Class, an international geography challenge.
“Doing,” says Ms. Sneed, “is the best form of professional development. Just jump in, and you’ll learn something.”
Professional Development in Unlikely Places
Sometimes, Ms. Sneed found PD in unexpected places. For example, taking a Zumba class taught her a lot about her own teaching practices.
Like all teachers, Ms. Sneed developed a form of metacognition – thinking about her own thinking – and she began to apply everyday lessons to her bag of tricks.
Yes, PD occurred everywhere.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.