Susan Riley | April 2014

5 Ways to Take Control of Your Professional Development

What have you done for me lately?

Do you remember this line from Sister Act 2?  It was in Joyful, Joyful, a song that Whoopi Goldberg’s character helped to arrange for her high school choir to win the state championship.  Whenever I hear that arrangement, that’s the one line that gets stuck in my head: what have you done for me lately?

Last week, I wrote an article about redesigning professional development to be more reflective of learners in the 21st century.  But we can’t just wait for schools to create environments where professional development can flourish.  We must take control of our own growth and development in ways that help us to thrive in our roles as educators.  So instead of asking our schools “what have you done for me lately?” in regards to our professional development, let’s turn that around and ask ourselves the same thing.  What have you done for YOU lately?

5 ways to take control of your professional development

1. Utilize Social Media.  Whether you’re creating Pinterest boards to house ideas for lessons and classroom management, or participating in a Twitter chat, social media can be a tremendous resource for professional growth.  I learn more through a 1 hour Twitter chat that I did in a full semester graduate class.  Because of the collaborative culture and wealth of knowledge that is shared on these platforms, you will never be at a loss for new ideas to discover.  And while Pinterest is a wonderful spot for sharing and gathering ideas and resources, Twitter and Facebook groups can be a fantastic way to problem-solve.  There have been many times when I have posted a question that I’ve been stuck on, only to have a variety of different responses with ideas to try that I would never have thought to use.  Social media makes professional learning a 24/7 sport.

2. Keep a Website Bookmark List.  Whether you use a bookmarking service like Feedburner or you manually bookmark websites on your computer, be intentional about marking sites that are helpful to you.  When you discover a new resource that you love, bookmark it and then treat it like a book you’re dying to read.  Visit it frequently and explore each page or post, highlighting as you go.  This is extremely easy if you have a mobile device or tablet.  You can save your ideas to your device and use it for lesson planning or curriculum writing.

3. Create and Reflect.  One of the best ways that you can grow is by doing.  So whatever you are looking to learn about, create a blog or a LiveBinder to reflect about your learning process.  As you reflect, you’ll begin to create resources for yourself that synthesize your learning.  Post these to your blog or LiveBinder and share them with others.  Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect; the act of reflecting and producing is key to learning.

4. Take a Class.  Whether it be an online class with the flexibility to learn what you want, when you want or a more traditional class offered locally in your area, make the investment in your own learning and experience being a student again.  You’ll get the benefit of the class material, and could possibly earn graduate credits or professional learning credits for a bump on the salary scale.  With choices ranging from free to being reimbursed for your investment, this is one area that’s a no-brainer for teachers.

5. Attend a Conference.  Again, conferences come in all shapes and sizes.  The big ones, like the annual ASCD, NAEA, or ISTE conferences can be very exciting with so much to see and do.  They can also carry a big price tag.  You could also attend an EdCamp if there is one being held local to you, which is usually a free event with the added bonus of being able to help design the sessions for the day.  Or, you could attend an online conference like our STEAM conference this summer, which gives you the connectivity of a larger conference, with the flexibility of 365/24/7 learning at a reasonable cost.

You don’t need to wait for professional development!  If you want it, you’ve got it at just the click of a button.  Take control of your learning and do something great for yourself.  I bet you’ll thrive!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan