On Professional Responsibility

306205_9376I am done procrastinating, and will now attack my peer review essay in the presence of all the interwebs. The topic? “How might you contribute to your own professional development and that of your colleagues?” paired with “What are the influences and people that played a part in your decision to become a teacher?”

You know, this subject of personal learning networks is one that is near and dear to my heart. I love learning. I love learning in community. I love sharing ideas. Collaborating. Networking. Sharing. These things are life giving and energizing to me.

Which is why I just don’t understand the negativity and animosity many educators exhibit towards any kind of non-district sponsored, required, or credited professional development opportunity. I really don’t understand it. Several years ago, I sat in a high level meeting where the discussion centered around the new teacher evaluation system, and quickly degenerated into how to support teachers through professional development. Now, we are not talking about cutting edge training here…. we are talking about basic things like how to use a grading system or email. I foolishly spoke up and asked “Why would we even provide that kind of training? Aren’t teachers professionals who should be responsible for staying current with tools of the trade? Shouldn’t this be their responsibility?” Ah, naive Julie. I continued on and mentioned that in industry no one is trained in using email or tools- as professionals they are expected to either know how to use them or to seek out extra help to get current. The reply I received from one individual was , “Julie, if everyone thought like you did, I would be out of a job.”

I think this is my underlying frustration with the original question. I do know how to contribute to my own professional development. I take time out of my busy life to learn, grow, and network. I attend virtual conferences. I attend live conferences, often on my own dime. I read books. I read blogs. I discuss ideas on Twitter. I take online courses. I organize local tweetups. Beyond that, I invite colleagues to join me. I have two who are joining me in the Blended Learning MOOC that starts in a few weeks (you are invited too!). I’m hosting a book night in November to discuss The Self-Directed Learning Handbook.

I don’t expect everyone to do those things. We all learn in different ways, and professional development is a personal thing. You have the opportunity to craft your own education.  Pick what works for you, but not picking isn’t a choice- especially if you are in the classroom teaching one of my kids. As a parent, I expect you to be current. If you are not, you should expect me to remove my child from your class…. since I know there is no way your administrator can fire you for such a “minor” thing.  And as your enrollment numbers drop, your building should start looking inward instead of blaming outward circumstances.

The bottom line is that I am a professional and should be held responsible for staying current in my field. So are you.

The biggest contribution I can make is to own my professional development and to expect my colleagues to own theirs. Of course, I can share heaps and heaps of ideas. But if the underlying assumption of personal responsibility for learning is not there, all the opportunities in the world cannot change the outcome. Sound familiar?

Well, that was a lovely little rant. Ahem. Don’t think I’ll be able to use that for my essay response. However, I have worked through why the question was bothering me so much and can now approach it like a professional. A procrastinating professional, but a professional nonetheless.

(Rather than write an essay, I elected to create a Powerpoint presentation. My preference is writing, but since my ESL peers are the audience for this piece I elected to make it more visual and less wordy.)

Washing the Windows

I’ll be spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ the blog for visitation by all those aforementioned demographic groups. Rather like a window washer, it takes courage and trust to create the transparency needed to showcase beautiful things.

[Day 6 of the #30goals challenge with Shelley Terrell @shellterrell and Lisa Dabbs @teachingwthsoul.]

Acrophobes Need Not Apply
Creative Commons License photo credit: ret0dd

Since unplugging Edmodo, I’m returning to my classroom blog to share resources, links, and lessons with students.  Today’s #30goals challenge was a good reminder that I can build upon that platform to increase transparency across the board- students, teachers, parents, administrators…. anyone can easily reference what is happening in the Computer Lab.  Currently, it is a glorified bookmarking site, with weekly posts of new sites to review.  I’d like to change that by posting ideas, videos, and weekly lesson plans. This challenge was very timely! I’ll be spending some time ‘spring cleaning’ the blog for visitation by all those aforementioned demographic groups because I sincerely do want to invite them into a welcoming space that has something special in store just for them. Rather like a window washer, it takes courage and trust to create the transparency needed to showcase beautiful things.

Posting weekly plans offers a number of benefits:

  1. I can plan ahead.  Using WordPress’s schedule post feature, I can keep drafts of upcoming lesson plans and post them at a future date.
  2. I can use these posts to create a lesson plan book to turn it at the end of the year.  There is an amazing WordPress plug-in called “Anthologize” which allows you to take posts and pages and create a book from them.
  3. I will have substitue plans pre-written and posted.  There will be some procedural things I do not include, but those are already covered in my sub-binder.
  4. I can still interact with students via the comments feature on each post…. but I see them first and approve them.
  5. I will be more effectively on the same page with all classes.  Sometimes, due to assemblies or field trips or holidays, one class gets further ahead than another.  This will help us stay more ‘together’. I know my music teacher plans two lessons a week, and the classes that miss just move on with the rest.  It’s a little different with the computer classes.
  6. I can easily share with others what I’m doing. I plan to cross-post to this blog so I can share ideas and also keep a record for myself and future employers.

You’ll find my weekly post template draft below.  What would you add or remove? Anything you’d change? I primarily want it to be a resource for the students, so I’ve tried to place things in a logical order that also entices them to come check out new things later. I strategically placed the parent info at the bottom, so that they can skim through the lessons and ideas before reaching the bottom. I may create a table to put the website and video of the week side-by-side, leaving the lessons the ‘main thing’.  I know my kinder kids get confused quickly if there’s too much to sift through. Also, I’m in the market for a cross-posting plugin that will auto-post this one from my classroom blog to this one, so I can share what I’m doing without copy/pasting.  Beyond that, I’m looking for an ’email me’ button where students can email me quickly from the blog page, and also would let them send me files straight from the blog…. hmmmm….. something to ponder.

Any ideas for me as I’m ‘cleaning-up’ the classroom blog for transparent sharing?

Website of the Week

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Video of the Week

(fun video or tutorial here)

Lessons of the Week

Notes from Mrs. C

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(student showcase piece- link to blog post or their work here)

Kindergarten

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1st

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2nd

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3rd

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4th

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5th

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Parent Tip of the Week

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Teacher Tip of the Week

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Tension Toolbox

Although this challenge pertains to ‘leaving it behind’ so that you don’t take it into the classroom, I tend to struggle more with ‘leaving it behind’ so I don’t take it home with me to my children and husband.

tool box
Creative Commons License photo credit: red11group

[Day 4 of the #30goals Challenge by Shelly Terrell @shellterrell .]

Stress is omnipresent. Eustress. Distress.  Good.  Bad. Our physical bodies respond chemically to it, and it’s important to have a toolbox of stress-reducing ideas so that we can function effectively in our everyday lives.  Although this challenge pertains to ‘leaving it behind’ so that you don’t take it into the classroom, I tend to struggle more with ‘leaving it behind’ so I don’t take it home with me to my children and husband. Because I believe education is 24/7, I don’t have a line of demarcation showing where my professional life ends and my personal life begins- I’m doing what I love, and that means I chose to spend free time learning and growing in that area. It’s not those that cause the stress- its usually how I respond to the daily things that challenge my capacity to do the things I love.

Here are some ideas for leaving the stress behind, or managing it when you feel it piling up!

Tension Toolbox: At School

  • Use some kind of aromatherapy in your classroom- diffusers, WallFlowers, or even hand lotion can help.
  • Have a haven- find someplace to retreat to within your workplace.  This can be a compassionate colleague’s room, a special corner of your digs, or a quiet area that’s rarely used.
  • Use a meditation mobile app or podcast.
  • Bring funny slippers to calm tired feet and bring a smile to your face and others.
  • Tune into the inspiration stream that is Twitter.  Usually, a 3-5 min. time reading will help put the situation in perspective.
  • Write an encouraging card/note to a friend.  Sometimes, all we need is to start thinking about other people.
  • Play that funky music- no need to buy!  Use Pandora, YouTube Music, or Jamendo. ((I was having an unfabulous day earlier this week, but George Couros @gcouros shared the Wham “Freedom” YouTube video that morning…. and I was able to play it during the day and find a way to laugh off the stress.  You can’t not dance through life with that kind of song! Retro flashbacks.))
  • Include your students in some things that really make you smile.  For some reason, we all love the game in line where everyone gives “moose ears” ((And yes, we know that those are really antlers, and not ears!)) It cracks me up, and they love it too.  Usually, that is a sure-fire way for me to start genuinely smiling again if things have gone awry during the day.

Tension Toolbox II: At Home

  • Turn off the noise and just be.  Let all those thoughts of the day, worries, etc. have some space to roll around your head. No radio, MP3, cell phone calls…. just silence.
  • Slow down.  Purposely walk slower getting to the car. Make it a leisurely drive home, rather than a race.
  • Change out of your ‘work clothes’.  Even if they’re still clean, there’s something freeing about putting on ‘play clothes’.
  • Exercise.  Always a good choice.
  • Have a humor list in your Feed Reader.  There are a couple that I turn to when I have to lighten up, and I end up with tears streaming down my face because I’m laughing so hard.
  • Make a list of ‘fun’ things that work for everyone in your family to do in the evening.  For me, the list feels super short given the age ranges of our children. ((I finally had to announce I would no longer be playing Candyland. I was trying to suffer through it graciously to spend time with my kids, but I hate that game.  There are plenty of other things that we can do that are a “win-win” situation.))

    How do you leave the stress behind?  Do you practice this coming into the classroom as going out?