Make Professional Learning a Priority

Teachers attend a multitude of meetings each school year some of which include:

  • Faculty meetings
  • Professional Learning Communitunity meetings
  • Support Team Meetings
  • Professional Development sessions
  • Conferences
  • Grade level/Content area meetings

Despite the many meetings, there does not seem to be a lot of time designated to digging in deep and learning with colleagues.  Regie Routman, in her new book Literacy Essentials:  Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for all learners deliberately uses the term professional learning over professional development (p. 105).

Professional learning is not about:

  • Having experts come to your school to “fix” things
  • Learning how to implement a new program
  • Data-centered staff meetings
  • The latest district initiative

Professional learning is about:

  • “…the desire to learn more and do better – for our students” (p.105)
  • Lifting your expertise as an educator and as part of a collaborative school community
  • Thinking deeply about, analyzing, and reflecting on important topics

“Be Bold!  Take the lead in ensuring that high-quality professional learning is at the center of your school and district culture.”

~Regie Routman, p. 106

Starting your Professional Learning Journey

When thinking about where to start your professional learning journey ask yourself these questions:

What are my interests in education?

What questions do I have about my teaching?

What strengths do I have as a teacher?

What areas do I struggle with as a teacher?

Once you have answered these questions pick an area to start exploring.  There are many professional learning resources available to teachers.  You may even want to do this work with a team of teachers or a partner so that you can share your learning with each other.

Professional Learning Resources

Find conferences and/or webinars that allow you to choose your topic of interest.  Exploring topics that you are interested and invested in will make you feel re-energized and excited to put your new learning into practice.

Follow the blogs of other educators who will help you to think deeply about the craft of teaching.  Keep a running list of professional books that you want to read and learn from (add Regie’s book to the top!).  Form a book club in your school and invite other teachers who might be interested in joining.  Share with others what you have read and talk over the implications of your learning and what that might look like in your classroom.

Participate regularly in Twitter Chats to learn from others all over the world.  I have participated in chats where participants have said things that resonated with me for days.

Collaborate with your colleagues by inviting them in for a lesson and asking for feedback.  Study research with your colleagues and discuss how you can better follow researched best practices.

Advocate for Professional Learning

Take risks and try out what you are learning and take note of the results.  Find ways to bring professional learning to other meetings in your school.  For example, during PLC meetings advocate for spending less time looking at data and more time learning together.  During faculty meetings create teams of teachers who have similar interests that they want to explore together.  Have faculty meetings be a time of deep collegial conversations on the chosen topics.  Be a leader by helping to think of ways that professional development time can be more about school-wide professional learning.

Work with your colleagues to use literacy research to develop a shared belief system.  Along those lines, Gen previously wrote a post about creating shared beliefs through ELA Curriculum writing.  Implementing the same shared school-wide program is not the same as holding researched shared beliefs.  A shared belief system based on research will allow you to use a program as a tool in the way that best benefits your students.

Regie reminds us that we need to make time for what is important and let go of some of the other things.  What can be more important than exploring what will be most effective when working with our students?

This is the second post as part of  Reading By Example’s Summer book club on Literacy Essentials:  Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman.  Please click the link if you would like to read my first Summer book club post – How to Inspire a Love for Learning.

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