“We want to be models; our patrons should see the librarian as someone who is a lifelong learner, always striving to make their programs better.” (Harvey, p. 14)
As teachers and teacher-librarians, part of our role is to inspire a lifelong love of learning in our students. The best way to do this is to show them that we too are continual learners, and that we enjoy learning too. Professional development doesn’t just help us stay current with technology, it helps us become the school leaders teachers and students need us to be. I see professional development as an important aspect of my growth as a person, as a teacher, and as a leader.
But lately I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed in my new(ish) position. I’m feeling like I just can’t keep up with the demands of what I need to know and learn so quickly, along with everything other little thing I need to do on a day-to-day basis. However, when I finally told coworkers how I was feeling, the support was incredible, in both quality and quantity. I’ve learned three very important things this week about professional development, and this list is my reminder for next time I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Note: My images this week are all doodle notes – something I am curious about and have been exploring over the past couple of months. I happened to find quite a few about this topic so I thought I’d make it a theme. Enjoy!
1. Don’t Go It Alone
“Since student learning is the underlying motivation for developing professional learning communities and the theme of the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, it seems only natural for librarians to be at the forefront of developing strong professional learning communities.” (Dees et al, p. 10)
Teachers don’t expect students to learn everything on their own, so why do we expect that from ourselves? Forming a professional learning network (PLN) is now at the core of professional development in the education sector, but it’s new to me. As a TTOC, I just didn’t have an opportunity to build an extensive PLN until I started this diploma program. I’ve fallen in love with the support, personal and professional growth, and enthusiasm that comes from working with colleagues towards a common goal. This week I learned that when I reach out to my network and say I need help, they will make sure I receive all the support I need (as I would and have done for them).
Last year I built a PLN with the other teachers in my school, and that has continued with new staff this year. But a strong PLN extends beyond one school, or even one district. It also encompasses people across the province, country, and world. Here are some things I do to build, maintain, and contribute to my PLN:
- Collaborate with other teachers/TLs (in person and online)
- Join a PSA (or three)
- Attend conferences and workshops (and talk to people while I’m there)
- Connect with others over social media
- Write a blog and follow others’ blogs
2. Use The Resources Available To You
“Much like adopting a growth mindset, valuing the act of pushing past what you ‘like to do’ can, in the right circumstances, result in growth.” (Nowick & Duckworth)
I spent the first years of my career at an independent school, where district resources just didn’t exist. Now working in a public school district, I’m learning about the wide variety of resources and specialists available at the district (and provincial) level! Two district resources I’ve discovered this year are the district library and district coordinators – both of which were pointed out to me by members of my PLN when I hadn’t considered them myself. It’s not always my first instinct to look for district resources, but I hope it will become so soon.
Sometimes this kind of learning makes me feel like I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m using tools and resources I don’t know how to use, on top of my regular job. But this type of learning also results in professional and personal growth.
Herein lies the link to my digital portfolio inquiry project. I received an email from the district shortly after my reading review posts about an upcoming digital portfolio pro-d event. I even got to ask questions and suggest other tools to explore right in the registration form. I think this will be one resource perfectly timed to provide the professional development I need to complete my inquiry project and set up portfolios with my students!
Other places I find professional learning resources (outside my PLN) are:
- YouTube – Anything technology tool you could possibly want to learn about has a tutorial on YouTube.
- Online blogs and websites – I have a number of relevant daily/weekly emails from websites that provide free resources right in my inbox. Most of them also provide brief videos, podcasts, or written guides for related professional development. Some blogs (like https://www.freetech4teachers.com/) are written specifically to help teachers learn about educational technology.
- TeachersPayTeachers – Use the free resources to find authors you like, then dig through their store for more. They also often provide professional development resources, videos, or podcasts.
- Public and private educational entities – especially places that offer field trips as they often offer teacher training or online lessons plans to compliment their programs.
3. Give Back To The Community
“Every person who has ever led a committee, or been AASL president, or done a presentation at a conference, started out someplace.” (Harvey, p. 14)
Giving back to the professional community not only builds a strong PLN and supports individual members, but it also helps build my own knowledge and leadership skills (Harvey). Sometimes I feel that I have nothing constructive to contribute, but I do. Never forget that you do too! “There are so many places within an association (committees, chairs, board members, etc.) that there is bound to be a perfect place for you” (Harvey). Everyone taking small steps to get involved makes a big difference.
Another way to give back is to contribute online. Whether it be social media posts, keeping a blog, or sharing resources, what you do online helps with the professional development of other teachers and teacher-librarians. Tammy Vora outlines 3 Cs for learning on social media: Create (regular writing also helps improve your writing), Curate (help others find the best resources too), and Contribute (provide your own “unique and meaningful perspectives”). She also suggests that those 3 Cs will lead to 3 more Cs: Community, Credibility, and Confidence!
I may not be ready to present at conferences or run professional development sessions yet, but I can still give back in my own way. Some ways I do give back are:
- Collaborating with other teachers.
- Attending after school sessions to share ideas about literacy.
- Volunteering as the school lead teacher for Career Education and Kids In The Know training.
- Providing my contact information to all the new DL teachers who have questions about the technology involved.
- Starting this blog!
I have noticed that the more I give back, the more confident I feel about my own skills and talents. And I am more motivated to embrace professional development opportunities.
Where or who do you turn to for professional development? Thinking back to when you were a new teacher, what is the one thing about professional development you wish more experienced teachers had told you? In which capacities are you able to give back to the professional development community? How do you build your PLN?
British Columbia Teachers’ Federation. “Provincial Specialists Associations.” BCTF, 2019, https://bctf.ca/PSAs.aspx.
Dees, D., Mayer, A., Morin, H., & Willis, E. “Librarians as leaders in professional learning communities through technology, literacy, and collaboration.” Library Media Connection, 2010, 29(2), 10-13.
Duckworth, Sylvia. “10 Reasons Why Every Teacher Needs a PLN.” TeachThought, 2018, https://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/10-reasons-every-teacher-needs-professional-learning-network/.
Harvey II, Carl A. “Are You the Next Leader in Our Profession?” Library Media Connection, 2011, 29(6), 14.
Nowick & Duckworth. “What Happens When Teachers Start Stepping Out Of Their Comfort Zone.” TeachThought, 2019, https://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/happens-start-stepping-comfort-zone/.
Vora, Tammy. “3 C’s for Learning and Leading on Social Media.” Qaspire, 2015, https://qaspire.com/2015/01/23/3-cs-for-learning-and-leading-on-social-media/.
5 thoughts on “Inquiry Project Week 2: Professional Development”
As I read through your post I found myself nodding along in agreement with the first 2 points. I completely agree that professional development shouldn’t be a solo undertaking and that we should take full advantage of the resources provided to us. It was your third point that really struck me! Give back!? I barely know what I’m doing half the time…I’m a young, new teacher! Oh wait. Nope, I’ve been at this now for 14 years (and sadly not so young either!). Isn’t it amazing that in this profession it takes a very long time to feel confident in what we’re doing?? After thinking a little longer and finishing your post I realized that of course I am giving back by contributing to my collaborative team and planning the school-based pro-d days for my staff. You are so right that we do not have to be giving presentations and workshops in order to make a contribution to the professional development community.
What I wish I’d had more of as a new teacher and what might have propelled my career along a little faster was a really excellent mentorship program. When we graduate with the BEd and are hired on as TTOCs we are dropped into with little to no support. A good mentor teacher can really instil a confidence in a new teacher that is just impossible to accomplish when being observed during practicum. About five years into my career I was working part time as my kids were very young. I took a grade 6/7 position sharing with the VP of the school. At the end of the first week of school a series of lay-offs and number shuffling changed that class to a 5/6/7 class which led to my partner moving into a 1/2 class and dragging me with her kicking and screaming. I did not sign up for early primary and didn’t believe I could handle it. She was such a patient, calm and caring mentor to me and changed my entire perspective and I’ve been in primary ever since. If I could have had that experience closer to the beginning of my career I think I would have been a better teacher earlier.
I feel the exact same way! I don’t have nearly enough experience to be able to contribute to professional development – but when I think about it, I have 10 years of experience. How did I get so far into teaching and still feel like I’m learning everything?
I agree with your comments about mentorship. I felt pretty confident after my practicum, but when I walked into a classroom for the first time without another teacher, I realized I had no idea what I was doing. It was another teacher who took me under my wing that got me started with my own classroom. Then I’ve recently found another mentor who I can turn to with any question. It doesn’t seem to matter how long I’ve been teaching, having another teacher to support me makes such a big difference.
I had a shocking experience lately when I realized I’d also become a mentor to other teachers. There are only three teachers in the elementary part of my school and I am the longest serving teacher (with 8 months of experience at the school). It wasn’t until someone said to me, “isn’t it nice that the other teachers have you to answer all their questions?” that I realized I had also become a mentor myself. Perhaps I am giving back in all the small things I don’t even realize I’m doing!
Your opening quote referring to being models of learning is powerful. Teachers are, and should be, viewed as lifelong learners. I’ll be referring to this in my next post as well.
I like the way you ended your post by asking questions about professional development. When starting as a new teacher it’s tough and overwhelming. I remember being super excited to attend large conferences, and eagerly jumped at the chance to be a part of many Prod-D opportunities, but in hindsight it was simply too much to properly process at the time. Starting anything new takes time and I wish that someone had helped me realize that it’s ok not to do everything at once. Instead, pick one or two things and learn them well. Sometimes in our profession we take on too much at once and we need to find balance.
Our district TLs are a strong group, who love to share ideas and teach each other so I am really lucky in this respect. I turn to them often and we frequently use twitter as a group. When one of us learns something new and cool, the rest of us learn about it pretty quickly. It’s an amazing PLN. It didn’t happen overnight though, we’ve been developing it as a group and welcoming new TLs in yearly. Sometimes that’s key too-making sure everyone feels like part of the PLN, because when they do, it’s even more powerful.
Thanks for sharing all of the doodle notes! I love them:)
Thanks Amy, I’m becoming a big fan of doodle notes (or sketch notes) myself. Trevor MacKenzie also has a bunch of excellent posters related to inquiry here: https://www.trevormackenzie.com/school-posters. I love all of them!
You’re right. One of the biggest challenges I faced at the beginning of my career, and to a point still do, is trying to do too much at once. I have a habit (and I think many teachers do) of comparing myself to more experienced teachers and either thinking that I’m not doing a good enough job or trying to do everything at once. This year I’m trying to focus on just one or two things at a time and I’m making much more progress!
Well done blog post on this very important topic. You’ve done a great job outlining all the ways you’ve grown, how you’ve reached out for help and the strategies you’ve adopted. A very honest and authentic post that shares what we are all feeling and thinking. Your inclusion of quotes, doodles and links is very much appreciated and the three key pieces of advice are very good. Your post provides solid evidence, examples and ideas for creating and cultivating your personal learning network long after this diploma is over. Well done.
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