Professional Development Opinion

Let’s Learn Something Worth Trying Tomorrow

By Starr Sackstein — January 15, 2017 3 min read
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Sitting around the table of now pseudo-familiar colleagues, I eagerly participated in a discussion about what it meant to be a true friend and whether or not a real friend supports you no matter what.

This was not the focus of the learning, but an opportunity to practice a behavior we want students and our teachers (as coaches) to practice.

The session was about collaborative conversations and although the ideas behind why we need to do it weren’t ground breaking for me personally, many of the protocols and strategies addressed and/or modeled and practiced were a great refresher and addition to my discussion tool box.

Not to mention the fact that my colleagues being just as involved as I was without complaint or criticism was great too.

There is nothing better than going to a conference or professional learning opportunity through your district that inspires you so much that you’re eager to get back to school the next day to try it out.

And this is what I love most about the UFT TC professional learning days. I have not yet attended one that didn’t give me something new to try, either with my own students or with the teachers I work with in my school. Everyone is positive about being there and excited to learn like the best group of students around.

As professional development providers and coaches, many of us need to first understand the needs of the folks we are working with and then how best to serve them so their tool boxes continue to grow in a meaningful way to improve student learning.

Since no teacher went into education saying, “I hate kids and I’m just going to wait my 30 years out so I can get a pension.” It’s our job as coaches, colleagues and administrators to work to work together to inspire each other and to learn together.

My favorite part of being an educator is the fact that there is always so much to learn. Although I may get good and even master some aspects of my craft, there is always fine tuning and growth to be done. Having that growth mindset keeps me fresh and involved in my helping my changing students get what they need.

When I started teaching 15 years ago, technology wasn’t as pervasive. As a matter of fact, using technology merely meant taking the students to the computer room to type their essays. We were still using only book sources and phones didn’t have the capacity to be that smart.

Over the years, I have taken a great interest in my students’ changing needs and I’ve taken it upon myself to learn more about their interests and specifically first infuse and then embed technology as a part of the learning experience. I was terrified about blogging when I started and now look at me. At first, I didn’t even want to use a iphone because I didn’t understand it . It scared me. It wasn’t until an iPad was put in my hands to play Scrabble that I started to see what this touch technology was and how much fun it could be.

Once I opened myself up to trying something new, how I could use technology for my students and teaching became absolutely limitless. Everything I touched became another possibility and the lightbulbs were going on all the time.

Now technology is a huge part of what I do daily and helping my colleagues use it too. Am I an expert? I wouldn’t call myself one because tech is always changing and I’m not always on the front line. However, I’m not afraid to try anymore (at least most of the time).

The world is changing and as educators we have a moral imperative to adjust and change with it. We owe it to our colleagues and students to understand and implement new ideas all of the time that keeps our teaching and learning fresh. This kind of transparency goes a long way. Plus, students can teach us so much when we open ourselves up to let them. Why not let a student teach the class about an application we don’t feel comfortable using (I’ve done this with iMovie in the past and even Prezi before I could use it).

Children are ingenius and we do them a huge disservice when we don’t recognize it.

When was the last time you had a learning experience that you couldn’t wait to bring back to the classroom and how did it impact student learning? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.