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'Tis the Season for Professional Learning

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
It's already the beginning of April and I can't even begin to explain what an exciting time the past six to eight weeks have been for me.  My last blog post was posted right before Valentine's Day and I've been seemingly absent from blogging and social media since then.  But don't take that as my being lazy (although, there might have been a few of those days).  I have been extremely busy planning and attending some amazing professional conferences and professional learning experiences.

In just the last few weeks, I helped to throw the biggest professional learning party in my district (ECET2Lou), facilitated a virtual learning session for some teachers over Google Suite for Education in the classroom, attended and presented at the Kentucky Society for Technology in Education (KYSTE) conference, hosted a Google professional learning community at my school, and attended and presented at the Derby City Google Summit by EdTechTeam.  It's been a wild February and March.  I have learned so much in the past few weeks and it has, once again, reignited my passion for this job.



If you're a teacher, you should LOVE professional learning.  But far too often, I hear teachers complain that they have to go to PD.  It breaks my heart.  Lifelong learning is something that many educators want to instill in their students, but they don't' often model a learning lifestyle.  I am of the notion that you can and will learn something new every day, which helps me in the classroom and at home!

Professional development, or professional learning, has gotten a bad rap for far too long.  It's probably because we come from an era of sit-and-get, though I've rarely attended one of these as of late.  Professional learning has come a long way and there are many reasons why you should love it!

1.  You get to learn new stuff. 

I got into the teaching business because I love to learn.  I wanted to share my love of learning with another generation.  My favorite part of professional learning is that I get to learn new things.  I am always searching for new strategies and tools to add to my metaphorical teaching backpack.  Most districts require teachers to get a certain number of professional development hours, so take that opportunity to pick sessions that you want to attend and will help you in the classroom.  Interested in learning more about how to integrate educational technology into your practice?  Seek out EdTech conferences like the EdTechTeam summits.  Want to start a discussion over a problem of practice you're having?  Find an EdCamp and create your own session. 
Keep in mind that professional development doesn't have to be in-person either.  There are literally TONS of online opportunities from a variety of sources.  ASCD has free webinars listed on their website.  PBS Teacher Line has both facilitated and self-paced online courses.

I also recommended following some great podcasts.  I've recently gotten into podcasts and I don't understand what took me so long!  If you're into educational technology or innovative schools, check out the Google Teacher Tribe or Shifting Our Schools podcasts.  If you're in school leadership, make sure to check out the Transformative Principal podcast.  Keep on the lookout for another blog post about my favorite podcasts coming soon!

I realize that sometimes there is mandatory professional learning that you can't get out of, but take the opportunity to add something new to the conversation.  Participate and share while you're there, as that's where the true learning comes.

2.  You're given the opportunity to network with other professionals and build your PLN.

If there's one thing that's expected in our profession of education, it's collaboration.  It didn't use to be this way, but the rise of a global community and professional learning communities means that you can't afford NOT to collaborate.  What better way to do so than get out there and connect with others?

Let me preface this by saying, I understand all too well the social anxiety of getting out there and mingling with people.  But one of my all-time favorite professional learning moments was when I attended our district's EdCamp and I finally got to meet all of my Twitter friends!  It's a powerful thing to be in the same room with the best and the brightest.  Make the most of it and introduce yourself.  Your professional learning network (PLN) will be there when you need help in the classroom, motivation to press on, references for job interviews, and so much more!  You can read more about how to build your PLN in my blog post from last summer.

3.  You can sometimes get FREE stuff!

Almost every professional conference I've been to gives away door prizes.  At the EdTechTeam Summit I went to in March, they gave away two Google homes, a host of professional books and other prizes.  At the ECET2Lou conference in February, they gave away gift cards upon gift cards.  I've even been to conferences where they gave away printers, Smore subscriptions, and flat screen TVs - at FREE conferences!

And, if nothing else, you'll probably get a sticker to put on your laptop.  Who doesn't love stickers?

I hope you'll find a true love of professional learning as a teacher.  If I've said it once, I've said it a million times:  the world is changing.  It's evolving quickly for us as adults and quicker for our students.  If we can't find it in ourselves as adults and educators to be true lifelong learners and model that for our children, they will have a hard time navigating this world.  Take a step outside your comfort zone and learn something new this week.

Did I leave any good reasons off the list?  Why should teachers love professional learning? Drop me a comment below to let me know! 

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