To educators frustrated by professional development,
I know you’ve been burned. You’ve had to sit through far too many hours of workshops that had nothing to do with what you need to accomplish in your classroom. You’ve been put in a position where the person in the front of the room didn’t recognize, let alone ask you to share, the expertise you’ve already developed to advance students in your content area. You’ve been given a new notebook filled with something — standards, a curriculum, a school improvement plan, a safety plan — that was developed without your input. And none of that takes into account how much you’re already responsible for making happen, and not just next week, but every week after that.
As educators, you’re in the learning profession. You’re faced with challenges — maybe in the form of that notebook, or maybe in the form of the next student to walk through your door. Whatever the challenges are, you’re going to have to be ready for change. And not just once, but over and over again.
So if that’s your reality, what can you do? How do you embrace the change, as hard as it is going to be?
There’s only so much you can control, depending on your role in a school. But every educator has some say in their learning stance. What does it take to be a learner today, in the learning profession? Here are some simple steps for educators to take. Maybe one is right for you to continue your learning journey.
Be engaged. No matter where change is coming from, you are responsible to lead your classroom or school to higher results. Just as the most successful students pay attention and engage deeply in the learning tasks in front of them, you can do the same. Ask yourself, what do I need to learn to overcome this challenge, and what is my best means of learning it? And then forge ahead with commitment.
Be vulnerable. While opening your doors to others is scary, there is no better way to reduce isolation and encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing. When you are ready to talk about what is hardest for you and ask for help, you help to build a culture where colleagues turn to one another for support.
Be compassionate. Your best opportunities to learn require the engagement of your colleagues as well as your own commitment. Learners who open themselves up to one another require higher levels of trust. Lead the way in showing compassion for those who struggle and can learn from your expertise. And be compassionate towards yourself — when you can demonstrate a willingness to discuss your failures as openly as your successes, you are a model for others to follow.
Be different. If the old ways aren’t working for you, try new ways, whether it is in your teaching or learning. Be the person who brings in a strategy from another field. Be the first one to adopt a new app. Be the person who suggests a new way of collaborating. Be the one who says you’re standing up throughout your next team meeting. Continuing old habits doesn’t logically lead to the development of new ones.
Be bold. Speak up for what is right for you as a learner. Share with your supervisor your vision for a new way to develop knowledge and skills. Complain to the people who can make a difference, not just to the people who agree with you. Become the champion for adults as learners, the person others turn to when they want to make a difference too.
Educators are responsible for what happens in schools and they need every bit of knowledge, every skill, and every tool to bring students to the highest levels possible. Only learners can pull all that together. Tell me how you’ll become the best learner you can be — what’s your stance?
Director of Communications, Learning Forward
The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.