When I was in college we were taught that if you can keep teaching past five years, you have a better chance of teaching for a long time. I am a firm believer that if more teachers would get involved with professional development both inside and outside of their states it would extend the timeline of teaching even further.
I make that statement because of my experiences the summer before my fifth year of teaching. I was offered the opportunity to attend a CASE Summer Institute. I had attended professional development workshops in my own state, spending the time with familiar faces. I had only ventured out of state one other time for training. Words cannot express the degree of learning I received from teachers who came from different backgrounds, agricultural practices and communities. Since that inaugural practice-changing professional development, I have attended or led a CASE institute every summer for almost five years! Each time I am inspired, rejuvenated, and excited to bring new ideas back into my classroom.
For years there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of learning communities in education. Locally and in my state, I am blessed with a diverse learning community that consists of the educators and industry leaders who are willing to collaborate across subject matters and between industries. If I am ever in need of support there are different perspectives and ideas just a phone call or email away. As a profession that spans the country, we are additionally blessed to work with intelligent and generous souls. We should have every expectation that tapping into them as a resource is one of the best forms of professional development available.
I remind you that our resources for technical content, instructional practice and motivation do not lie with just your fellow teachers. A lot of times the professional development facilitators are a wealth of information and support after the trainings are completed. They want you and your students to sustain success almost as much as you do.
Professional development is a licensing requirement, forcing you to undertake life-long learning in the best interest of your students. Why not also use it as an opportunity to market your program? Make sure you share what you are learning with your school district and the parents of your students. Try to send a photo and a quick note about the training you received to local newspapers and publications. It’s amazing the difference in credibility you can experience when parents, administrators and community leaders know about your steps to improvement. We do a poor job of telling our story, and this is one area where we can really gain from doing it better.
In addition, participation at those events gives you the opportunity to brag on your students. You get to tell people from all over the state and country about what your students are accomplishing. That attention is something your administration will appreciate.
I’m pretty confident I was a good teacher before I became active in professional development. Today, I am becoming a great teacher. What I learn from the participants is priceless, and the amazing ideas that I can take back to my classroom are countless. Being involved has allowed me to meet state and national standards that can assist me with my students. More importantly, it’s improved my ability to master the art and science of teaching my students.