I have to say- 2017 has been (by far) the most rewarding year of my career in terms of reaching personal professional growth goals. There were a few events (and more importantly, lots of people) that contributed to my ability to make exponential strides in my professional learning in a short amount of time. But, a key ingredient in the professional growth I made over the past few months has been my ability to steer and direct my own learning path. I participated in MOOCs, began blogging, started a book proposal, and actively joined Twitter. All new learning events for me – and, more importantly, all self selected and meaningful to me and my personal learning journey. “Meaningful to me” are key descriptors of the growth I was able to experience; words that imply that everyone’s professional learning path should… no, must look differently.
Just as no two students bring the same interests, prior experiences, background knowledge, and biases to a lesson, no two adults share congruent learning paths. Leaders can honor and respect these innate differences in their staff by supporting autonomy, choice, and freedom in the learning experiences people participate in.
I am certain that had someone told me six months ago that I “must blog each week” or was “being prescribed a certain MOOC to participate in”, my learning would have been superficial at best. Instead, my time was willingly spent in learning opportunities that were exciting and relevant to me in each moment. The freedom to direct and drive my own learning provided spark to my motivation and the ability to craft and mold the experiences to my current position gave purpose to my work.
Your Personal Learning Path
Below are some of the learning activities that I chose to engage in in 2017. Some of them may be appropriate to your current position on your personal learning continuum, and others may not. Consider where your learning took you in 2017 and what your next best steps might be.
Thinking in the Open: This year I began asking my students to think and work in public spaces- reflecting openly in blogs, sharing their ideas with one another via Padlet & Flipgrid, and collectively building renewable works that serve a greater good (thank you, Robin DeRosa for introducing me to the world of Open Education). Because I won’t ask my students to do anything in class that I’m not willing to do myself, I too, began thinking and working in the open (I participated in MOOCs, jumped into educational discussions on social media, & blogged for the first time). Although this was a seemingly small shift (I was already engaged in similar learning activities in private settings), moving my learning, reflecting, and wonderings to public spaces had a monumental impact on my professional learning. Opening my classroom truly opened my mind to the greater purpose of our work and to the idea of true life long learning.
Starting to Blog: Although I realize that blogging is not new or noteworthy to many; when it came to my professional growth, blogging truly was both new and noteworthy! When I first began blogging, I found myself working hard to write what others might like to read. Over time, though, I began using my blog as a weekly tool for deeper self reflection. Having an audience (or even the idea of a potential audience) helped challenge me to refine and specify my thoughts in a deeper way than my personal journal had in the past. Setting a goal for publishing blog posts helped me remain consistent in the time I spent in self reflection, a critical component to any learning.
Joining The Conversations: One of the biggest contributors to my 2017 professional growth was actively participating in ongoing conversations with others in our profession. Thanks to #IMMOOC and #DitchSummit, I was not only presented with amazing content to critically analyze, but I was challenged to join in discussion around important topics through weekly Twitter chats, common blog prompts, and live YouTube and Hangout sessions. These conversations allowed me to simultaneously build an amazing PLN and engage in reflective conversation that pushed my thinking, challenged my preconceived notions, and raised my awareness. If this is a relevant learning task for you, consider joining 1-2 Twitter Chats each week (Check out #tlap, #TeacherMyth, & #JoyfulLeaders – the time spent will pay in dividends!
Connecting with Others: My absolute favorite takeaway from 2017 is the first hand experience I had connecting with other educators. Thanks to Twitter, I have been able to connect directly with authors of phenomenal texts (@gcouros of Innovator’s Mindset, @jmattmiller of #DitchBook series, @HollyClarkEdu of Google Infused Classroom, @Joboaler of Youcubed, @JCasaTodd of Social Ledia among others) and other truly inspiring educators who (as an added bonus) are so easy to chat with that I feel like I’ve known them for a long time (even though we’ve never actually met in person). Check out @lauriesmcintosh, @AnnickRauch, @TaraMartinEDU, @MeghanLawson, @Mo_physics, & @tamaraletter @Katiemartinedu to experience the awesome firsthand.
PD? That’s on ME
I stumbled on this Will Richardson (@willrich45) quote this week – a quote from a few years ago that, amidst ongoing conversations around personalized PD for educators, still rings loud and clear for me:
And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.
Yes – teachers should be responsible for their own PD – in fact, we have a responsibility to reflect on our individual and unique learning needs, and should welcome opportunities for professional growth that are meaningful, relevant, and challenging to each of us in each moment.
So, yes – let’s not wait – As learners, let’s commit to chasing after learning opportunities that fit our individual and celebrated differences and as leaders, let’s honor our staff’s individuality by providing them the autonomy to self direct their own learning paths.