While cleaning out a file cabinet this past week, I ran across a packet for a presentation I gave in 2002 at KCTM conference (the electronic file is long gone, but I’ll scan and post it soon). As I read the description and looked through the activities – I asked myself, what was different about my teaching back then? My explanations and reasoning in the packet were very thoughtful. So what had changed?
In 2002, I had become a NBCT in Early Adolescence Mathematics. I spent a lot of time talking with educators, sharing strategies, learning new things for my classroom. I was fortunate to attend several workshops focused on making Algebra more accessible for all students through the use of graphing calculators and hands-on learning activities. The workshops provided great resources, but the conversations which took place with other educators is where the real growth began. As part of the NBCT process, I was required to videotaped lessons and reflect on my own classroom…how what I was doing impacted student learning. How could I make it better for my students? When I felt I need to make a change, I could email someone with my network and ask for advice and ideas.
In recent years, I have gotten in to a bit of an educational rut. I’m not blaming becoming a mom – but my child was/still is my priority, its just a little easier now to start venturing out to conferences and workshops again. Relying soley on what my administration provides for my only source of professional growth, well, much like our students , one-size fits-all isn’t the best option for everyone.
At times in recent years I have felt overrun by all I was being asked to do. There were so many “things” I was told to implement into my classroom. I hadn’t had time to process and study, to really buy in to what we were doing and why. I attempted it all, checked it off the list, but I didn’t do any of it well. I felt like a failure (hmmm…is this how some of my students feel at times???). I don’t like being a failure. I like to focus on one, maybe two things and put much effort in those and give good quality. When I’ve mastered those, I can set new goals…isn’t that how it should be?
This past semester, however, I began meeting with 2 colleagues weekly for some good wholesome talk about math class. Our conversations ranged from things we were doing in our classrooms, lessons we were using, strategies for assessment and technology integration. We shared videos of our classrooms and discussed what we saw, what worked well, and again, how we could make it better. Reflection + Conversation = Growth for me.
Who knew what I was doing had a name. This summer, I’ve learned it was my PLN – personal learning network…the people I have chosen to follow and connect with, the educators from around the world who seem to share the same philosophy and goals for education that I do. As educators, we are much like our students in that we are all at different points. My PLN is not required, but it allows me to focus on where I need to grow…I can focus on my own learning and teaching needs.
The one-size fits all required professional development can be so frustrating. Yes, I suppose it’s needed for those who don’t want to take the initiative to find their own means for growing. But by receiving constructive feedback from administration (& colleagues) – based on observations and other evidence, I should be able to determine my specific areas of growth (hmm…sounds a lot like self-assessment in my classroom for my students).
Life-long learning is an essential characteristic found amongst effective educators and something that should be modeled for our students. With so many changes occurring in the field of educational technology, curriculum, pedagogy, and law, it is imperative that educators receive opportunities for growth in their school. Additionally, they should be provided with the knowledge and foundation to develop a Personal Learning Network. This will enable them to learn more according to their diverse interests and passions. E.Sheninger
As a professional, I must hold my own practices up to scrutiny and then decide if those practices are worth keeping. By expanding my PLN to include online resources like twitter and teacher blogs, I have opened an array of tools I had not even considered in the past. I am inspired and encouraged by their tweets and blogs. Whether in-person or online, by surrounding myself with like-minded educators, I can focus on my interests and passions – which will enhance the learning environment in my classroom and allow my students to focus on their own interest and passions.
Interested in PLN? @NMHS_Principal provides a wonderful blog on how to get started. Not convinced you need a PLN? See skipvia’s fantastic video he provides at the end of his blog.
A couple of things from twitter I find interesting as a teacher and a mom:
FLAG – fix learning and grow via @jreulbach
Summer Fun: 12 Ways Parents Can Build a Mathematics Brain in Children
And I continue to learn about SBG…