Three Tips for Squeezing the Most Out of Your Professional Development
You are a teacher in the k-12 system, and as such, you are no stranger to professional development. We know you have a lot of professional responsibilities that make your personal time limited and valuable. A teacher’s time is often stretched very thin. Between lesson planning, preparing the lesson, teaching the lesson, communicating with parents, grading assignments, professional development coursework, and personal/family responsibilities, there is hardly enough time to take a deep cleansing breath before we fall into bed, only to wake up and do it all again in the morning.
In our office, we value your time. We want to ensure you are using professional development opportunities to achieve maximum benefit. So, continue reading to learn three ways to make the most of your professional development classes.
But first, for those who may be new to teaching in a k-12 setting or are considering a career in k-12 teaching, I would suggest you read this post on what professional development is.
Squeeze More Benefits Out Of Professional Development
I have worked with k-12 professional development for the entire 14 years I have worked at NDSU.
In my time here, I have made mental notes about the many ways professional development can be used more effectively and efficiently.
Here are my top tips for squeezing every last benefit out of your professional development classes.
1 – Know your learning goals.
Look at your classroom and identify areas in which you can improve. No one else needs to know the areas you want to improve on, so be honest with yourself. By taking the initiative to seek out classes that address your needs, you are being a proactive teacher. And that’s a good thing.
No one else needs to know the areas you want to improve on, so be honest with yourself.
Ask yourself, “which topics would I like to understand more so I can better assist my students?” The students in your classroom are unique individuals; each with their own personalities, backgrounds, strengths, and challenges. What topics would provide you with ways to assist your highest performing students? Which topics would help you find ways to support your struggling students? Furthermore, each school year brings about a different set of students with a different set of needs. Are there specific areas of development you could work on this year that would help with next year’s students?
Think about your needs as a teacher. Are there specific technologies you feel could enhance the way you present a lesson? Is there a new teaching methodology or curriculum that you have basic knowledge of but could benefit from a deeper understanding? Could you benefit from classes on maintaining balance in your personal and professional lives?
Use this information to seek out classes that support your learning goals. That way, you can earn credit for learning skills that will have an immediate impact on your teaching. Or, if you are an expert in any of these areas, considering offering a professional development class for others who could benefit.
2 – Be present in your professional development class.
Your time is valuable, and with our ability to be connected to the internet 24/7, it is easier and easier to get distracted or try to multitask. Numerous studies show we are not able to multitask as effectively as we believe.
Next time you are in a professional development class, make a conscious effort to stay off your electronic devices (unless you are asked to be on them). Don’t get distracted by social media, online shopping, or any of the myriad other ways our devices seek our attention. By keeping your attention focused on the instructor or presenter and the class activities, you allow yourself the time to truly develop your skills.
…make a conscious effort to stay off your electronic devices.
If you have to be in a professional development class or activity, then make it your goal to take something valuable away from it. You may not have profound enlightenment in every professional development opportunity, but even if you take away only one thing, I would argue the activity was worth it.
3 – Connect with teachers outside your district.
Much of your professional development needs can be obtained through classes offered exclusively for your district. Those classes are great because they address your district-level or school-level needs. However, if you are only taking classes offered by your school district, you are missing out on valuable insight and connections with teachers in other school districts, regions, or states.
Connecting with teachers outside of your district can be a powerful tool in finding teachers who can crowdsource solutions to a teaching challenge. Maintain a professional connection with other individuals who are motivators or who cheer for you when you have a teaching breakthrough. Having a support system outside your district can be useful when you run into issues that are uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss with co-workers.
This is called “saving face,” which is a term that originated in Asian cultures. Not to oversimplify the concept, but the basic idea is that individuals want to avoid interactions that cause embarrassment. I think the concept of saving face is also true for many individuals in the United States. Sometimes we don’t want to reveal we don’t know something to those who have a direct impact on our employment because it could be embarrassing for us.
Having a support system outside your district can be useful when you run into issues that are uncomfortable or embarrassing to discuss with co-workers.
In making connections with teachers outside our district, we can obtain feedback or knowledge from a neutral party which allows teachers to save face in their own district. Many teachers who take classes open to all teachers comment that not only meeting peers from outside their district but also the ideas generated collaboratively was one of the most valuable aspects of the class.
Next time you are seeking a professional development class or have run into a teaching challenge, try out these tips.
As I was writing this post, I realized that I have a lot more tips and they all require a decent length explanation. So, to avoid this post becoming too long, I’ve decided to write this post as a three part series. To learn even more tips on making the most of your professional development experience, be watching for the second and third post in this series.
Let us know in the comments below how you decide a professional development activity is right for you. And, what tips would you give a new k-12 teacher regarding their professional development?
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About the Author
Connie Jadrny, is the marketing and public relations coordinator for NDSU Distance and Continuing Education, a program of the Office of Teaching and Learning.
In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about the professional development needs of k-12 teachers.
In this series of posts, she intends to pass along bits of wisdom from the professional development industry.
Let’s learn together!