Pretty simple question, right? Would you visit a hairsylist who didn’t keep up with the latest styles? Or a doctor who used techniques from the 1980s? Of course not. As teachers, we should be constantly evolving and growing in our craft. Our classroom today should not look like our classroom looked last year. Our instructional techniques should change as we reflect on their effectiveness and acquire new ideas about best practices.
As we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily teaching duties, we can’t let professional growth slip through the cracks, and professional development needs to go beyond the occasional workshop. I challenge you to reflect on your professional growth and set personal professional development goals, and I offer these three suggestions to include in your plan.
Read Professional Books
At my school, we when interview prospective teachers we ask them to tell us about a book they have read recently to further their professional growth. I find the candidate’s response to that question as interesting as the answer. I have seen way too many startled or confused looks in response to that question. Candidates who stammer to produce the name of one book they have recently read to improve their craft.
It’s hard to read a good book and not get excited about trying something new. Set a goal to read one professional book each quarter. That’s three months to read a book and implement at least one new idea. Look for online book studies to join. Recruit colleagues from your building to join you. Need some suggestions for books that will transform your teaching? Try one of these:
- Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Math Instruction, Christine Moynihan
- Building Mathematical Comprehension, Laney Sammons
- What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most, Todd Whitaker
- Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions, Elham Kazemi & Allison Hintz
Connect with Educators Online
We live in a connected world. We are not restricted to participating in learning communities only within the walls of our campus or even our district. Our professional learning communities are now global. We can connect with educators across the state, the country, and even the world. Twitter is one of the most powerful tools in your professional development arsenal. Educators have found a home and a voice on Twitter. Any day of the week, you can participate in a Twitter chat, discussing a wide range of topics. There are grade level specific chats, general teaching chats, and content related chats. Most chats happen weekly on the same night and time each week. Check out this education chat calendar for a comprehensive list of chats.
Set a goal for yourself to participate in one Twitter chat each month. I have a suspicion that once you get involved, once a month won’t be enough!
Join a Professional Organization
Your professional resume should include membership in at least one professional organization. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) is the largest mathematics education organization in the world. They host regional and national conferences, provide online teaching resources, and publish books and journals. Membership includes a subscription to one journal, and you can choose from several journals to meet your needs (elementary, middle school, etc.). Even if you are not a member, you can access free previews of selected journal articles, like this one on using multiple models for teaching fractions. This brochure outlines all the benefits of membership and includes pricing. If you choose to join, please note that I referred you by using my name (Donna Boucher) and Member ID (3102769).
There you have it! Will you pledge to set personal professional development goals this year? Please add a comment and share your commitment to life-long learning.