How Do I Find Time for Meaningful Professional Development?

I’ve been teaching 19 years and for the last 14 years, I’ve been teaching 3rd grade.  I really enjoy this age level because they are old enough to do a lot of things for themselves but they are still very excited about learning.  However, teaching the same material over and over again, year after year can be a challenge.  I always tell my parents at Back to School Night that I sometimes get bored of teaching the same lessons, and if I’m bored, I know my students are probably bored too!  So I am always looking for new ways to spice up my classroom and make learning fun for the children.  The problem is, how do I find time to fit in that professional development?  Luckily, my own 2 daughters are in their 20s and pretty much self sufficient.  However, I still have papers to grade, bulletin boards to cover, lesson plans to write not to mention laundry, cleaning, errands, cooking, exercise, and time to relax and recharge.  There aren’t enough hours in the day!  I teach in the state of Pennsylvania and we are mandated to get 180 hours of PD in a 5 year time period so that does force us to learn something new.  But for Catholic school teachers like myself, that also means paying for it out of our own pockets or doing something for free just so I can get those hours finished.  Where can I get meaningful PD?  Places to learn a new tool that I can quickly incorporate into my classroom tomorrow?

Rich Czyz has some wonderful ways to answer that question in his new book, The Four O’Clock Faculty.  This book has very easy and practical ideas for finding that spark that we teachers need to get our juices flowing again.  Some of the ideas mentioned in this book I am already doing, ie using Twitter, attending EdCamps, but he also gave a multitude of other easy ways for making connections with others to share ideas.  Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. #CoffeeEDU – This is an esay way to share ideas over coffee.  Choose an establishment, pick a topic and invite other educators to join you in your discussion.  Tweet it out with the hashtag and maybe you’ll get some folks outside of your school to join you to enrich the conversations and sharing.  Often times you can even get an educational vendor to send prizes and/or pay for the coffee!
  2. #TechMexTuesday – In this method, Rich suggests utilized those 15 minutes or so before or after school that teachers are required to be on property.  Invite teachers to come and learn or share about a new website or tool while snacking on some grab and go Tex Mex treats.  This could be a weekly or monthly meeting where the technology coach or principal share new ideas with the staff.
  3. The 1 – 5 – 15 Method by Rob Sahli – Each week Rob sends out a newsletter that contains 3 links for his staff members to continue their learning.  The first link takes one minute to review, the 2nd takes 5 minutes and the 3rd takes 15 minutes.  Maybe different educators in your building can take turns doing this throughout the year.
  4. PD during your Commute – Download an educational podcast and listen on the way to work if you have a lengthy commute.
  5. Lunch and Learn – Last year my school got a new reading series and we were all having a bit of difficulty adjusting and getting use to the new format.  Several times a week we would share our frustrations during lunch which also led to us sharing our success stories and resources we’d found to help.  At the end of the year, several teachers commented on how much they enjoyed those discussions and sharing.  Why not make this a routine?  Choose a topic to discuss and invite your colleagues!  If you have the means, bring the food too or make it a BYO.
  6. Have a Genius Hour during your next PD day. – Many of us have heard of trying this with students – giving them time to work on a topic they are passionate about – but I never thought about doing it during a teacher professional development.

These are just a few of the numerous ideas that Rich mentions in his book.  It’s an easy read with many anecdotes we can all relate to and both a summary and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. (Who’s up to do a Book Club with this book? We can even do it virtually using the Twitter hashtag #4OCF or the Voxer app as Rich suggests).  I think this book would be a good read for principals or other leaders who are in charge of professional development, technology teachers or coaches looking to share ideas with staff members, and teachers who are looking to go Rogue.  Rogue as defined by Rich is Relevant Organized Group of Underground Educators.

Some of the best educational ideas that I have gotten have been from talking to other teachers about something they are doing in their classroom.  Several years ago I became involved in the Global Classroom Project which was a group of educators from around the world who came together to provide and lead projects to connect their students globally.  We’ve since had to let go of that label due to time constraints to maintain the projects.  However, once a month there are 15 or so of us who get online and video chat about what is going on in our classrooms.  We are from different countries and different walks of life (both higher and lower grade teachers) but I really look forward to connecting with those educators and sharing our ideas.  I have come to see them as friends even though I’ve never met most of them.  When we do meet up (usually at ISTE) it’s like I’ve known them forever and we pick up our conversations right where we left off during the last Skype session.  When I have a problem or need some advice, I know they are there to help.  Every teacher needs a PLN both inside and outside of your school building.

The world (and education) as we know it is changing at lightening speed and it’s important to our students that educators change with it so that we might properly prepare them for the future.

To learn more about Rich and his book visit the Four O’Clock Faculty website.

How do you find time for meaningful professional development?

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