Laura lives in the Boise, Idaho area with her husband and children. She holds a B.A. in secondary education (English and social studies) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school counseling (K-12) from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of South Alabama, respectively, and a Ph.D. in instructional design for online learning from Capella University. She teaches online at several colleges and universities across the country and has over 20 years of experience in education.
Have you ever heard your principal or supervisor utter the words 'professional development,' and all of a sudden your eyes glazed over? Were you thinking, 'What can someone possibly do to entertain me for half a day (or maybe a whole day or two or three) that will actually help me to grow as a teacher?' Have you really sat down and given any real thought to what it is you hope to accomplish and develop as a professional?
If you answered 'yes' to the first two questions, this lesson is probably for you. In this lesson, we will define some long-term goals for professional development and discuss ways of working to attain those goals.
Professional Development Defined
Before we take a look at professional development goals, we first must clearly define what 'teacher professional development' is. In the educational field, professional development is any kind of formal education, specialized training, or advanced learning activity that helps teachers improve their skills or professional effectiveness.
Professional Development Goals
Some teachers do not really give a great deal of thought as to what their professional development goals are. Most find workshops that look interesting and hope that their principals will give them the time off to go, or in some cases, teachers are given professional development by individuals brought in by the school or school district--whether they ask for it or not. And that's as far as it goes. But thinking about what your goals really are will help you to develop in the way that you want to.
When thinking about your professional development goals, understand that there is a process involved. This process usually involves defining the things for which you want or need to increase your skill set. In addition, the process can involve exploring avenues within your profession that you have not yet planned for. Sometimes, when trying to figure out what your goals are, it can be helpful to sit down and make a list. Start with the things you're really good at, and then work your way to the things you want or need to learn how to do. This will usually give you some direction.
Let's look at some common goals that are often overlooked:
1. Becoming More Technology Savvy
This one is overlooked much of the time, when in fact it is very important. New technologies are constantly emerging, so it is important for us to keep up with the latest trends and issues in the field. Maybe you want to learn to use a Smart Board. Maybe you need to upgrade your computer skills and learn to do things like keeping a grade book online or integrating the Internet into the classroom. Countless school districts are now purchasing laptop computers for their students, so it is important that you know how to use them.
2. Publishing a Journal Article
Believe it or not, you don't have to hold a Ph.D. in order to publish. Take a look through some professional journals. Many, many people who have published articles in those journals have undertaken research on their own without completing a doctoral dissertation. In fact, many of them are teachers in the field just like you! Is there something you want to know? Is there something you want to do some action research on? Publishing an article in your favorite journal will give you tremendous clout in the field.
3. Leading a Workshop at an Education Convention
Like publishing, offering a workshop on a subject you know well gives you clout among your peers. And chances are, if you have been in the field for any length of time, you have a favorite method that you can share. Giving a workshop also helps you practice your presentation skills in the adult world, which is something that many of us could benefit from working on. And who knows who you might meet or have a chance to network with while you're doing it? Many people even get paid for doing things like this!
4. Learning About a New Educational Method
You know the old saying, 'You can't teach an old dog new tricks.' Well, in our field, this just isn't true. Again, read your journals; if there is a new method you want to know more about, be innovative and let your principal know about it! He or she may just think it's a good enough idea to send you off somewhere to be trained on it. And then when you get back from training, you can teach your colleagues about it. All of us in education know that nothing lasts forever. Fads come and go all the time. So take the opportunity to incorporate something new into your teaching!
Let's review. Professional development for educators is any kind of formal education, specialized training, or advanced learning activity that helps teachers improve their skills or professional effectiveness. When creating your professional development goals, you'll want to think about what new skill set you want to learn. In this lesson, we covered just a smattering of the opportunities that are out there for professional development. It's fine to merely read a journal article and report on it to your peers, calling that professional development. But how far is it going to get you, and who will you meet by doing it?
Put your brain to work and think of a couple of really robust goals, and then be sure to let your colleagues and supervisors know about them. They may want to jump on board, too, and you will be seen as an innovator within your school, rather than just another teacher who balks at the words 'professional development.'
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