To become an effective educator, you have to constantly perfect your craft. Professional development can come in many forms, but one thing is certain, only attending the required trainings from your district isn't enough. I've put together a list of 7 ways to continuously grow as an educator without breaking the bank.
1. Read Professional Articles and Books
Subscribe to educational websites and read recommended books from inspirational educators.
Note: You don't have to flood your inbox with spam from every website you come across or buy every book in the store.
Be selective with what sites you follow by deciding on an area that you would like to immediately improve in. Being part of an email subscription list can help you stay current with what is happening in education...for free! Many educators that you follow for inspiration/ideas also offer their expertise to blogs that align with their practices. Chances are, if you are inspired by an educator, others are as well. I've seen many educators share recommended books for professional development. Books are a great source to "level up" as an educator, because they are fairly affordable and can always be resold online when you are done.
I've been interested in starting a book study/club that doubles as an accountability group, because let's face it, sometimes we need the extra push. If you're interested in doing a book study together, click here
2. Participate in Ed Chats
I was told all the teachers are on Twitter, so if you don't have an account, you might want to consider getting one. However, I have also built a wonderful #teachertribe on Instagram and I am a member of a couple educator groups on Facebook. Each platform provides a different experience for me to chat with other educators and give/receive advice.
Our local school district encourages educators to share lessons and school activities via Twitter, so being there are has provided me with an opportunity to connect with teachers in my area and stay up to date with what standards they are working on. Additionally, you can join in on scheduled #twitterchats and talk to educators all over about a specific topic of interest.
Instagram has by far been my favorite platform for connecting with educators. It is visually appealing to me and (in my opinion) the most user friendly. You can quickly get an idea of what teachers are doing in their classrooms and leave comments/questions to learn more information.
On Facebook, I am more inclined to read lengthy articles (see #1). The type of educator group that you are part of will reflect in the articles that you see. While I do share some of the same sentiments, I don't check Facebook as much, because the tone of what is going on in education can be a downer at times. I am definitely NOT ignoring or shying away from the problems in education, I have just found that there are other outlets where I can address a problem and begin moving forward with working to make a change.
3. Attend Conferences/Seminars
I'm sure your district had you attend trainings by now, but what I continuously hear is how ineffective the training actually was. Many times you are receiving the same training/information year after year, which is why it is important to research professional development in your area and take it upon yourself to attend. By the way...did you know that often times your school will pay for you to attend a training? All you have to do is ask! If you are denied by your administrator, don't worry, there are other options.
Two places I like to search for conferences are Eventbrite and Facebook. On either of these sites, you are able to narrow down a specific event that you are looking for and decide whether it is/isn't within your budget. However, if you are like me...some of the conferences you would like to attend are upwards of $200 and not local. In this case, planning is important! If it is out of town, try to schedule a family/friend vacation around the same dates so that you can tackle two things at once. Figure out how much the conference, travel, and accommodations will be and then start a savings plan to make sure that you are able to attend then next one.
4. YouTube University
You know those people that just keep going to college because they either love learning or don't want to ever pay back their student loans...? That's my relationship with YouTube. I will be a lifelong student of YouTube University and I don't have to worry about paying back student loans because the tuition is FREE 99! People are literally begging to give you free information and all you have to do is like or subscribe to their channel! Technically, you don't even have to like or subscribe, but it gives them encouragement to keep sharing free information, so just do it! Since I've been talking a lot about searching for specific professional development, YouTube happens to be a great source. Just type in what you are looking for and "Wala! Magic!"
Webinars are another form of professional development that can range in price, but many are available for free. Sometimes, people use free webinars as a tool to draw you in for a bigger sale, but, if you value the content you are receiving, there is nothing wrong with supporting a business. A benefit to webinars, as opposed to attending an actual conference, is being able to listen and learn at your own pace. If you aren't able to make the live webinar, the presenter will provide you with a link that you can listen to over and over again. If you do attend the initial live webinar, you are able to ask questions in real time and receive immediate feedback.
6. Peer Observations
Know someone that is a great educator? I sure do! Ask them if you can come during a scheduled time and watch them in action. Bring a paper and pen to take notes about what strategies you would like to try with your students. You can do this with someone in your school or at another school. It may take a little help from your administrator to find coverage for your class, especially if you are observing someone in your school that teaches the same grade as you. If you choose to observe someone at another school, take a personal day and don't for one moment feel bad about it! After all, you are doing something to benefit your students. Some charter and private schools offer school tours and observations, however, these typically do come at a price.
7. Self Reflection
If you are looking for ways to improve as an educator, via this post, you have probably already done a little self reflecting. Pat yourself on the back and kiss your brain because this is probably the most important form of professional development!
One way that you can make self reflection easier, is by videotaping your lessons. Set up a camera in the back of the room and let it record. I personally enjoy videotaping my lessons. Originally, I started out just propping up my camera on something in the room, but it was always difficult for me to be sure if I was actually capturing a good shot. Here's a link to the camera stand that I now use for my phone. I like it because it is compatible with iPhone and Droid and comes with a clicker that you can use to automatically take pictures or start and stop your video. The legs of the tripod are flexible and can be wrapped around poles, if you are teaching in a non-traditional setting. At the end of the day, review the video and pay attention to each part of your lesson. Check your tone, student interaction, engagement, etc. Make adjustments to your lessons based on the information that you see.
If you are unable to videotape your lessons, you can (and should) take a moment at the end of the day to think about how everything went. Using a lesson reflection sheet is helpful so that you can organize your thoughts on what went well and what needs improvement.
There you have it! These are the 7 ways that I use, and recommend, to ensure continuous growth as an educator. It can be easy to fall victim to the pressures of social media and try to do everything that everyone else is doing. However, if you take control of your own professional learning and seek out specific courses/resources that are beneficial to you, you will see greater improvement in yourself and your students. As always, remember to do your research and consult multiple sources.
What areas are you working on developing? Leave a comment below!