Sometimes as an educator I am happy to float along with the current, navigate the rapids and come out the other side unscathed. I have been fortunate to be able to attend some great conferences this year and it is time to unpack the tote bags as I prepare to write curriculum and activities for another year. Professional development should not be considered an event, but a paddle stroke that will push you forward and focus your direction.
From PD to Action
Now that you have at least a month before you re-enter the classroom, how will you capitalize on your learning? What issues, concerns, or techniques would you like to address or implement in your classroom next year? What have you learned that will change the way you do your work or change the way your students will do theirs? What’s in your tote bag?
Unpacking and Repacking
I have to admit, I have quite a few tote bags, some barely get unpacked (and I have one that is just filled with SWAG- great prizes for the classroom or souvenirs for your own children- I used to bring my children the little boxes of cereal...but I digress). I have a middle level education tote bag, some content area tote bags, a common core tote bag and my newest – an ISTE technology integration tote bag chock full of 101 ideas, tools, apps and best practices. The key is to take what I have gleaned from the numerous sessions I have attended and apply my learning into my practice one step at a time. You should not feel that you have to throw out the baby with the bath water (which is a terrible saying now that I think about it).
Upgrade One Step at a Time
My point is that you should take some of those great lessons, ideas, and practices and massage them into your teaching. Rather than taking new stuff and fitting it into you already full curriculum, look at your old stuff and see what makes sense to upgrade. For example, if you are going to discuss the upcoming elections, why not have students look at one issue, research different perspectives, teach them civil discourse in a discussion tool such as SCAN at Tregoed.org or Collaborize Classroom? Adding critical thinking strategies, problem solving and collaboration to your content is a great way to upgrade your lessons. It is not about the tools, it is how you use them. Take a look at those essential questions in a new way and develop an authentic problem based challenge around it. You do not have to re-do your school year; just make adjustments that will get your students to think critically and explore different perspectives.
I sometimes leave conferences overwhelmed with all of the possibilities and have to reel myself in. What are you most excited about trying next year with your students or staff? What’s in your tote bag?