I often hear and believe in the saying “We are in the improvement business, not the perfection business” as it relates to our role as educators and the impact we have on students. But what about us as lead learners? Educators must live by this saying as well. Each and every day we should be learning something new, staying connected online, trying out a new strategy or tool, sharing best practices, and collaborating cross grade level/subject area. It’s the only way to improve our craft and have a legitimate impact on student success. Here are five ways to develop yourself professionally in and outside of the classroom setting:
1. Smackdowns: Don’t know what one is? Read more here. Smackdowns should be held at every faculty meeting, subject area meeting, grade level meeting, and curriculum day throughout the school year. Sharing becomes contagious especially when you give a flashy name i.e. Smackdown. Just because you work with someone in the same building does not mean you actually know all the great things going on in their classroom. Conducting a Smackdown at a faculty meeting will shed light on how your colleagues are using technology to engage and innovate.
2. Weekly Email Digests: School leaders and/or curriculum specialists should create or subscribe to weekly email digests that can be disseminated to staff in a timely fashion. Here is an example of how I use Educlipper to share best practice resources with staff members district wide. Educlipper is education’s answer to Pinterest. Simply find a great resource on the web, clip it, and disseminate to your audience.
3. School Hashtag: Create a school wide or district wide Twitter hashtag. This can prove to be a tremendous help for staff as the look to improve their craft and find information easily via social media. Instead of scouring various social media sites for information, people can go to Tagboard and type in their school hashtag. This will then direct them to posts that were made on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ to name a few.
4. Edcamps: Attend a local Edcamp for free and be exposed to some of the most innovative ideas in education. They are happening all over the place and the model can be replicated in your own school or district. Giving people the autonomy to learn what they want where they want is incredibly powerful. No longer is it an option for staff to stay on top of best practices by sitting them in a room and force feeding them information. Chances are they will take the same approach with students in the classroom. EdCamps provide an alternative way of sharing and learning. People show up at a location, have the freedom to hold a conversation on an educational topic, attend sessions that are applicable to their field of study, or get up and leave if they aren’t interested in what’s being presented.
5. 80/20 Principle: Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford HS in New Jersey, incorporates Google’s 80/20 philosophy. Why not find more time for staff to improve who they are as educators during the school day? It is probably better time served than monitoring student’s behavior in the hallway or cafeteria. For this type of initiative to flourish schools must be creative in how the schedule staff members during their periods off. Teachers need time to research, collaborate, and try out new tools of the trade. If it can be done during the actual school day and it will benefit students progress in the long run.
The number of ways educators, including myself, can grow in this day in age is truly incredible. What is written in this blog post is only a sample of the great resources that can make us all better in meeting the needs of diverse learners. Opening a magazine and reading about a best practice teaching technique just doesn’t cut it anymore. Educators must be able to share, collaborate, discuss, and reflect on how they will push the envelope in order to promote the success of students. So take a few moments and really think how you could incorporate one of these ideas into your own professional life or within the school setting. There is no doubt that it will have a positive impact on your growth as an educator.