Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stuck On The Treadmill?

"Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous
learning experience."  - Denis Waitley

Do you ever feel as though you are stuck on a treadmill when it comes to professional development? Each year school districts organize several learning opportunities for staff members.  For some, the PD will hit the mark, for others it will painfully miss.

But then comes the real problem.

The following year rarely includes additional learning opportunities on the same topic.  Instead the district moves-on to something different.

This is the jump on, but you really don't move forward...and some cannot keep up and fall off the back.

Years ago when I was a teacher, I felt stuck in the never ending cycle.  I decided that the district (in my opinion) was providing me the minimum and I was in charge of moving myself forward.  It was then that I felt my own learning take a leap.  I still remember the day...

It was mid-January...Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  The students had the day off and staff had to report to their building.  I remember waking up and dreading the day.  All I wanted was time in my classroom and time with my grade level team.  Instead we had a full day of MEAP data to analyze. The plan was to review each question and figure out where our students were going wrong on the Standardized Test.  Could the day be more painful?  

I went to school that day, but I'll admit I was not fired up.  I was simply there.  At the end of the day I left feeling miserable.  Shortly after that day I knew that it was up to me to push myself forward.  My push came in a Masters Course with Dr. Hamilton.  Dr. Hamilton posed a question to our grad class. It was very open ended, but it created an intriguing discussion.  He asked, "What would you change if you could?"  Several people talked about time, but then the discussion dove deeper.  It dove into professional learning.  Dr. Hamilton told the group that we should begin to look at PD with a leader's eye.  It was this conversation that pushed me to drive my own learning.

Fast Forward nearly 9 years...

Times have drastically changed.  At the time of my grad classes, Twitter was not a known tool.  Very few educators blogged, conferences were too expensive and you simply couldn't access videos on YouTube or listen to podcasts.  It was different.  

But what I had was a willingness to learn and a drive to get better.  I read, Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robinson and When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss.  These two books were very different, but I gained tremendous insight into two different worlds.  Simply put, I learned and my thoughts evolved.

What does it all mean?  Here are three questions to think about.

1)  Do you want to learn and grow?

2)  Are you willing to drive your own learning?

3)  Are you open-minded?

If you answered yes to all three then I'm excited to see where this can go.

In 2010 the first EdCamp took place in Philadelphia.  Educators gathered and drove the learning with authentic, organic, participant-driven professional learning.  Since 2010 there have been more than 300 EdCamps.  EdCamps are free and often times take place on a Saturday.  What I love about this is the people that choose to come want to be there.  They want to learn and get better.

So I ask you, have you attended an EdCamp?  Stop waiting for your administrator to send you to a conference.  Sign up for an EdCamp.  I bet there are multiple EdCamps taking place in your state this year.

If you want to implement something in your room do you take the initiative to learn/investigate the topic?  One of the most common phrases I hear is, "I want to start doing ________ in my classroom. Would the district send me to this conference to learn more?"  The blank could be anything.  It could be Nurtured Heart, Daily 5, Book Whisperer, Writer's Workshop, the list goes on.  My question is, have you read the book?  How much have you learned or have you simply heard this is the newest trending educational thing?

What about leveraging technology to drive your learning?  It's 2015, have you participated in a Twitter chat?  Have you listened to podcasts?  Have you signed up for a webinar?  Have you pushed your thinking by listening to a Ted Talk?    

Technology has allowed learners to learn anytime and anywhere.  Have you taken advantage of this?

I'm tired of the same old, same old.  I expect to receive "my" minimum from the district next year, but I will take it upon myself to go beyond the minimum.  

Do you have an area that you want to improve?  If yes, do you have a plan? 

This Week's Big Question:  How would you restructure professional development/learning?

Articles Worth Reading:

4 Ways To Refill Your Cup @casas_jimmy

It's harder for us to be nice to kids -  by @valeriestrauss

Fighting the Fight @TechNinjaTodd

Belding/Vernon/Rooney @danpbutler

John Hattie: Homework in primary school has... interview with John Hattie

3D Printing Is About To Change The World Forever by Rick Smith

Schools need more Legos and less texbooks... @justintarte

Why you shouldn't have a job @schink10

5 Things That Happen When You Embrace Being Alone @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

#30SecondTake focus on Professional Development (5 min) @GustafsonBrad

Jon Stewart sounds off on Charleston (5 min)

Rick DuFour sounds off on Phony Educational Crisis (3 min)

Impressions with Seth MacFarlane (4 min)

Loud & Proud (6 min)