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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How Do You Stay Current in Your Classroom?

            Phew!  Three years of course work -- finished!  Comprehensive exams --  completed.  State tests -- done!  You would think that after nearly thirty-six months of hard work and tears, Erica and I would be ecstatic to have completed our graduate degree in literacy education from NIU.  We should be thrilled that we will no longer be spending our weekends highlighting books, collaborating on group projects, and deciphering research articles. Although we are proud of our accomplishments, we are also terrified.   We relied heavily on those classes to throw the latest books, research, and ideas at us every Monday night in a convenient little package.  Now we are on our own to continue our professional development and the thought is admittedly scary.    Reflecting on our own fear of having to be responsible for our own learning made us start thinking about professional development for educators in general. 
          Even though we won't be enrolling in  formal courses immediateley,  we know we must continue to explore new ideas if we wish to continue to grow and effectively do our jobs.  After all, don't we all have a duty as educators to continue learning about and honing our craft?   Think about it: would you want a surgeon to operate on you who hasn't read anything about advances in medicine since he'd finished med school ten years earlier?  He might have graduated with top honors at the time, but what does that really mean to me, his patient, a decade later?  Not much if he doesn't know the latest techniques to deal with my very real and current symptoms.  Just as patients deserve to be seen by doctors who remain knowledgeable about current practices,  don't our students also deserve to be instructed by those who continue to remain educated in their fields of expertise?  In our district, we are fortunate enough to have professional development opportunities at our fingertips:  workshops, online book studies, and learning walks are the norm.  But even if you work in a district where little is offered, I would suggest that it is our duty to seek out these opportunities on our own.  Now I completely realize that teachers are overworked and stressed. I get that.   My colleagues arrive early in the morning often before the sun rises and fall asleep with their heads in a stack of papers in the wee hours of the night.  They also have personal lives.  They have their own children.  They deserve down time.  
         So I recognize that none of us are sitting poolside eating bonbons in lieu of participating in new learning.  However, I had a friend say to me the other day something that really struck home:  "People find the time for the things they believe are important." My friend was talking about how we hadn't gotten together in a long time and although we were admittedly busy, we needed to work harder to coordinate a meeting time if our relationship was a priority.  She was right.  If it is important to me, I will find time in my schedule to get together.   So even though time is limited and teachers are one of the hardest-working group of people that I know,  we owe it to ourselves and our students to make our own learning a top priority.  In future blogs, we will continue to share great books, resources, and articles that we found helpful and hope that you will share your own ideas in the comments as well.  I would venture to guess that many of us became teachers because we enjoyed school and learning the first time around as students.   So you never know:   you might enjoy that professional book or journal article more than you think you will.  And your students will reap the benefits.