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It’s Your Professional Development – Own It!

Taking the initiative with your own professional development and finding resourceful and different ways to spark your growth as a teacher can sometimes yield the best results.

Samantha Fecich | @sfecich
October 11,  2019
Perspectives

One hallmark of an educator of excellence is having the mindset of “never stop learning.” We know that learning doesn’t stop when we cross that stage at graduation or when we get the diploma; in fact, learning has only begun at that point!

When we get hired for our first teaching job and beyond, often districts will provide us with professional development (PD). Some of that PD is great with engaging speakers and informative resources, but other times it is not designed for you and is a “one size fits all” type workshop. Raise your hand if you have been in a professional development meeting where you thought to yourself either “This could have been delivered in an email” or “This has nothing to do with what I am teaching and my learners.” Yeah, my hand is raised too. While in many cases professional development is getting better and more individualized for teachers, sometimes teachers must go beyond what their district or schools provide them and find resources that will help them grow as educators of excellence. After all, we want to be the best teacher that we can be for our students, right?

Fear not friends! I have some tips to help you own your PD! It is your professional development, so why not own it? Let’s jump right in and discover some ways for you to take charge of your professional development.

Podcasts

Podcasts are one of my favorite ways to engage in learning that fits my schedule. If you aren’t familiar with podcasts, they are audio shows about different topics. I love to listen to podcasts during my commute or on a walk. They are accessible in a way that fits my schedule and discuss areas of study that I want to learn more about to help me grow as an educator. The length of podcasts varies from ten minutes to an hour (or longer!). There are podcasts available to you on every topic under the sun – including teaching! First thing to do in order to get started with podcasts is to download a podcast app. Some of my favorite apps are: Google Play, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pocketcast, and TuneIn. Find a podcast app that fits your style.

Podcasts are typically free and can be listened to while driving, working out, or during other activities.
Podcasts are typically free and can be listened to while driving, working out, or during other activities.

Once you have a podcast app downloaded onto your mobile device, it is time to start listening and subscribing to shows… for free! When you subscribe to shows you get the latest updates, including when a new episode drops. I recommend giving a show a few episodes of listening to see if it is jivin’ with you, then subscribe to the show so you don’t miss a single episode. You are probably asking yourself, “There are so many podcasts out there, how do I know which ones to tune into?” Friends, this is a great question! Here are some of my go-to podcasts (in no order):

Like I said, podcasts are great for learning on the go. Which podcasts do you recommend to teachers to help them grow?

Webinars

Another way to grow as a learner and continue your professional development is by exploring webinars. Webinars are video conferences that are either live or recorded and archived. Webinars are based on a slew of topics that can help you learn and grow in a variety of education topics.  Some of my favorite resources for tuning in live or watching recorded content are:

Webinars offer the convenience of learning from home, yet provide the ability to engage in real time with others in the virtual space.
Webinars offer the convenience of learning from home, yet provide the ability to engage in real time with others in the virtual space.

What I love about webinars is that you can sign up to attend live in person and ask questions to the presenter or you can watch them recorded on your own time.

Get Connected

Have you ever heard or said the phrase, “It’s a small world?” It truly is a small world and we can leverage our use of social media to connect with educators from around the world to help grow our practice. Being a connected educator has helped me connect with teachers, administrators, and thought leaders from worldwide. I have learned so much about strategies, techniques, and edtech tools to implement into my classroom because of my connections on Twitter and Instagram. By being a connected educator, I can bring new voices into the classroom from educators around the world.

I want to share with you some tips when it comes to being a connected educator of excellence. Twitter is a great place to get started. Once you have registered  for an account and created a bio it is time to make connections. Be sure to check out www.sfecich.com/14 for tips to rock your Twitter (and Instagram) bio. When following others on Twitter or Instagram you want to find people that are going to speak into your life as a professional educator. You can follow edtech companies, schools, districts, teachers, administrators, and higher ed folks. I recommend following the following people in order to start building your connections:

These are just a few of the people that I follow and learn from in my professional learning network. I would recommend that you first check out who they are following, read their profiles and add to your learning network. After you are following about 50 people, I would recommend checking out hashtags that help you learn as a teacher. Is there a certain topic in education that you are passionate about? I am sure there is a hashtag for it! Some of my top hashtags for educators include:

  • #NT2T – new teachers to twitter
  • #eduTwitter – Educational Twitter
  • #Edchat – all things education
  • #elemchat – elementary chat
  • #SSchat – social studies chat
  • #engchat – English chat
  • #NTChat – new teacher chat
Twitter is an excellent way to follow other professional educators, subscribe to relevant hashtag discussions, and connect with people from around the world.
Twitter is an excellent way to follow other professional educators, subscribe to relevant hashtag discussions, and connect with people from around the world.

If you are already a connected educator on social media, I suggest that you sprinkle some magic on your connections. What I mean by this is using those connections to grow your classroom, such as bringing experts into your class via Skype. One former student Skyped in a Holocaust survivor during her unit covering the book, “Follow the Stars.” To bring the point closer to home and make the experience real for students, she had a woman Skype in and share her story. It was such a meaningful learning experience for her students. You can do the same for your students – engage them in meaningful connections through your connections on social media.

There you have it! Three growing opportunities for you – listen to podcasts, attend or watch recorded webinars, and connect with other teachers around the world on Twitter or Instagram. What are some ways that you are connecting and reaching out to educators? How are you building up your own library of professional development resources? Let’s connect and share – after all, we are better together.

Hi! I am Dr. Sam Fecich, I am a professor of education at Grove City College. I work with future teachers in areas related to special education and educational technology. I am also the author of EduMAgic: A Guide for Preservice Teachers and a podcast designed just for future teachers, called EduMagic. I am a huge fan of pumpkin spice lattes (PSL) and binging Netflix shows like The Office. I look forward to connecting with you!

: www.sfecich.com

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