Making Professional Development A Habit

by Dawn Casey-Rowe, Social Studies Teacher & Learnist Evangelist

The final post in a 6 part, “Better PD” series. See parts 1-5: PD Sucks. Is Edcamp the Solution?Pairing Teachers for Better Professional DevelopmentHacking Your Classroom, Moving The Conversation From Bullying To Climate, and 6 Tips For Finding Inspiration In Your Teaching

We will be wrapping up the Better PD series with a theme designed to make us continue to think about PD.

Make PD a habit.

Learning is lifelong, continual. In order to have true professional development, participants have to get together and commit to continue sharing the learning.

Too often it’s easy to make a list of books on the Kindle, think about planning the next conference, and put off professional coffee with a friend. We can justify putting off our own personal PD for many reasons–and they’ll all be good ones. There are students to help, papers to correct, and we absolutely must spend time with our families. These things are true, but the following is also true–we can either have excuses or results.

Professional development must stay in the rotation on a permanent basis. It must be calendared in as we would an important appointment–it’s an appointment with ourselves. In a way, it’s a lot like physical fitness. Many people fail to reach physical fitness goals because they do not have the right approach. By committing to work out regularly, doing a favorite activity, and maintaining positive consistency, you will see improvements in all areas–not just physical. Professional development is the same thing.

We reach goals by setting them, and doing a little each day. Perhaps it is meeting with a group once  a week or connecting with someone on a helpful subject. It might be attending one conference a year or choosing to read two or three books on a particular topic. This can lead down the path of finding a niche or area of passion. That’s the key–unlocking and developing passions. Then, consider doing something with those passions, and eventually, those passions become new skills.

By channeling our own desire to be lifelong learners, and learning things about which we are passionate, the fire does not go out.

To end this PD journey…or really to begin it, this Learnist future will look at professional development in the larger picture of life-as part of a habit of balance including lifelong learning. PD is one aspect of balance, because it keeps us mentally sharp and happy in our career. Without professional development, we stagnate. Suffer burnout.

Unplug from our craft.

That is why professional development has to be purpose-driven or self-led and continual. It cannot be useless CPU credits earned on a yearly basis to satisfy some requirement. Sure, many of us have to do this, but how great would it be for these meaningless requirements fade into the sunset as educators take charge of our own learning. Eventually this systemic love for learning could roll downhill to students taking charge of theirs.

From Need To Fun To Habit

I do many things in the lifelong learning department. I love to learn languages, for example, and new DIY experiences and crafts catch my eye. I cook and garden sustainably, and enjoy learning new physical activities. In the education world, I’ve been learning anything tech I can get my hands on–it started because I had serious needs and no budget for my classroom. Now, it’s progressed from need to fun to habit.

And vision.

That’s usually the case when it comes to learning. It starts out as one thing and morphs into something else entirely.

Lifelong learning is important whether you are four or 40. It is an example to set for our own students. If we continue to learn, it validates learning for them, too. Please enjoy this final board in the Better PD Series: Lifelong Learning.

Add thoughts and learnings about how you best keep up with your learning interests and how you manage to fit them into your busy life.

Image attribution flickr user miamifitnesstv; Making Professional Development A Habit