Fine.... I'll Make My Own Professional Development!

Saturday, March 23, 2013
Being in education as long as I have I know that one of the biggest complaints is professional development opportunities. As a social studies teacher I have had to sit through hours of district wide professional development and none of it was geared for the social studies specifically. Don't get me wrong, I have learned invaluable tools from workshops on behavior management, dealing with difficult parents and writing across the curriculum but sometimes I would love to listen to someone talk about teaching social studies. We do have state social studies conferences but with shrinking budgets we can't afford to send nine social studies teachers and provided them with substitutes. I have started sending my people in pairs and rotating by grade but this means that a whopping two people get to see best practices in action.

 Next year, I think I'm going to present at our local conference just so I can get free admission. It is never below me to sell my wares for a free seat. This dilemma has always sent me outside of my district walls to become better at my profession. I do believe that although it is the job of my district to train me in the things it wants me to focus on and implement, ultimately I am the one who chose this profession and I should be willing to do the work to remain at the top of my game. Luckily, we are living in an age where professional development is at our finger tips and creating a professional learning network goes beyond your town, your state and your region. Although I focused on social studies here, most of this list can easily be tailored to every subject.

 So.... How have I created my own professional development opportunities?

 1. Twitter.....

 I know a lot of you already use Twitter for professional development but I am writing this post for the newbie. Twitter isn't just all about reading about what people ate for lunch (you can actually really learn more about people's lunch choices on Instagram:) ). I am on Twitter solely for education (except for following my boys from Supernatural.... Sorry, guilty pleasures). First, there are some amazing people to follow on Twitter like Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne) and Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7) Just reading their Tweets can offer you PD for a week. Once you get deeper into Twitter, you use the hashtags (#) to follow conversations. I am a big fan of #sschat and #edchat. As a social studies teacher, if you go to Twitter on Monday nights at 7pm and follow #sschat you will take part in a conversation that usually revolves around topics like getting rid of textbooks or how to use primary sources in your classroom. Checking in on your Twitter feed can easily stretch to an hour. Cybraryman, an amazing education resource on the web, offers this immense list of education hashtags to follow so other subjects rejoice!!!

 2. The Teaching Channel

 OMG!!! If you have visited my blog before you might have seen the professional development videos I curated for my department and if you looked at them at all you would have seen 95% of the videos came from the Teaching Channel. They are just amazing. It is more than just a bunch of "experts" telling me how to do something. These videos are of real teachers implementing real best practices into their classrooms. I can't even tell you the amount of ideas I have gotten from this website and I looooove their focus on the Common Core. It is still such a vague idea, especially for my subject, I love being able to see teachers succeeding at implementing in their classrooms. I really love how they offer something for everyone.

 3. Teacher Cast

 I have never really understood the point of podcasting until I found the wealth of educational podcasts. My favorite has to be Teacher Cast. They host podcasts just under an hour that focus on current topics in education and they recently just did an awesome chat on primary sources in the classroom. The best thing about the podcasts is the versatility of listening. You can find these podcasts in iTunes so I downloaded them to my phone and listen to them in the car. Even if you don't have a smartphone, though, you can listen straight from your computer. I listened to the primary source on while I was setting up my classroom in the morning and then finished it while I wrote a teacher observation.

Some other podcasts I follow are:
 Bam! Radio - I love these because they last less than fifteen minutes and are packed with information.

 Teacher's Aid

 4. ITunes U

 Now, if you don't have and iPhone or iPad you can't do this one.... Sorry to be a techno snob. On ITunesU you can download "courses". That are published by universities and websites. Once you download them they get stored in your library.

 My absolute favorite course is for Edutopia. They have organized all their amazing videos by topic.

 Most of the videos are less than 15 minutes so I love watching one before I go to bed at night.

 I'm not sure how your district allows you to track and submit PD but here in NH we are totally about local control. We have our immediate supervisor sign off on our portfolios and then the district gives the nod to the state. I have begun to write up all the time I spend on these activities to document them for PD hours. I use Google Drive to document the pod casts, links and dates. I can then submit this to my superior for PD hours.

I won't lie, I have done a lot of work to organize all this. It is my passion so I enjoy doing it but my digital scrap booking and cleaning my house has taken a hit for this passion. The best thing, though, is after I hear a wonderful podcast or find some amazing resource on Twitter, it puts a little spring back in my step and for a fleeting moment I gain back that feeling I had my first year teaching, I become optimistic and hopeful again, and to be honest, that feeling is addicting. I don't mind working hard to feel that over and over.

 Lastly ... I'm really excited because others feel the professional development void and created EdCamp and in three weeks I am going to one in New Hampshire. Yeah for teachers being resourceful!

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