Happy Teacher Series: Professional Growth

The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set!
Part of being a teacher is recognizing the need for continual growth. Sometimes this growth comes from an intense professional development session. Other times it comes from a mistake you have made and learned from. Alternately growth can come from a student blowing your mind with something they say or do. Ultimately though, all growth helps us, as teachers, to stay on the edge of our seats and on our toes all the time.

Why Do Happy Teachers Take Professional Development Seriously?

Growth is a huge goal for teachers. We want to see growth in our students, our schools, our communities, and ourselves. A vital part of continued growth is professional development. The desire to continually learn what the new and best practices are in our profession keeps us fresh and ready to greet our students on a daily basis. Some teaching and learning strategies pass the test of time, but others don't, and it is important that we know the difference. 

An educational degree is not the end all and be all of teaching, but instead teachers should continue to learn throughout their career. Our classrooms are fluid with changing needs and expectations each and every year. Without professional development there is no way that we could keep up. In order to meet the needs of each and every student that walks through our door we have to continue to grow along with them. 

Teachers who love professional development are also great models for their students. When you show them that you are excited to learn and try new things they are more excited about their learning. I always made it a point to share with my students what I learned whenever I went to professional development, especially if I missed a day with them, and they got excited for me. 

How Happy Teachers Continue to Learn

There are SO many options out there for professional growth from online trainings to after school events to week long conferences with the best of the best. While we don't always get to decide exactly what kind of professional development sessions we attend, we can certainly lean in a specific direction. 

Outside of "official" professional development there are a number of ways that teachers can continue to grow. 
    The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set!
  • Podcasts-There are some truly amazing podcasts out there for teachers with everything from best practice to encouraging teachers. Two of my favorites are Cult of Pedagogy and Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers. I love to download an episode to my phone and listen to it during a commute. Sometimes I will listen to the same episode multiple times and really let it sink in. I also have my favorites that I go back to when I know I need to hear that message again. 
  • Professional books-There are a million and one professional books when it comes to teaching and they vary in subject matter greatly. Books are a great way to experience growth personally, because you can move at your own pace. Alternately you can get your team or a group of colleagues together and do a book study. This always worked well for me, because I needed that accountability.
    Some of the best professional books I have read lately:
    (affiliate links)
    The Strategic Teacher
    Never Work Harder Than Your Students
    Teach Like a Pirate
    For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood
  • Read educational news-There are a ton of very informative websites out there that will keep you in the know when it comes to educational policy, best practice, and developments in the field. By spending a few minutes every week reading articles you can really show what you know to your colleagues.
  • TED Talks-Not all TED Talks relate directly to education, but I am willing to bet that you can find a connection. Additionally there are a vast number that ARE directly about education. I always feel inspired and ready to go after listening to a TED Talk. 
  • Shadow a colleague-One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is watch other teachers teach. We as a group are an inspirational bunch, and while we share a lot, we also have very different ideas and styles. By observing one another teaching from time to time we are able to take back the best of what we see to our own classrooms, while potentially offering some constructive feedback to who we observed. 
  • Teaching blogs-I am making the assumption that since you are here you know the power of teaching blogs, but let me just say teacher-bloggers are an inspiration to me! 
  • Hold your own training-If you have something that you are passionate and knowledgable about ask your admin if you can present to your campus. Odds are they will bend over backwards to make it happen! At our campus we have 1/2 hour optional trainings on Mondays that were presented by teachers. We called this time Grow Your Garden and looked at it as a way to learn a little bit more about new topics in a "bite-sized" format. 

How to Get the Most Out of Professional Development

First of all, pursue your passions. When you get the opportunity to choose a professional development course really take advantage of your options. Read descriptions carefully and choose something that you know will positively affect you and your students immediately. This makes it easy to get excited and will make you a more engaged participant. 

The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set! Actively listen. Teachers are known for being the absolute worst group of people to present to. We are noisy, trying to multi-task, and often carrying on side conversations. Break the mold! Walk right on up to the front of the room and grab yourself a prime seat. Make sure that you have a way of taking notes to help you remember all the awesome things you are going to learn. Set yourself up for success!

Before you leave the training take a moment to think big picture. Personally I like to set a goal for myself that is kind of lofty, and then some mini-goals that will help me to achieve the larger goal. For example, my lofty goal might be to integrate 10 cooperative learning strategies by the end of the school year. My mini-goals could be to introduce and master one new strategy a week. This keeps me accountable for my learning, but is in bite sized pieces that are easy to accomplish. Sometimes I sweeten the pot even a little bit more with a little reward to myself. I am currently off soda, but I might promise myself one piece of candy each time I accomplish a mini-goal and a Dr. Pepper when the lofty goal is complete. You better believe I am going to work for that sweet nectar straight from heaven! I also share my goals with my students, because they will keep me accountable for sure! 

Looking for more ways to be a happier teacher? Check out 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do.



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  1. This is a great post.

    I never really thought about podcasts. I like things I can listen to on the go so they are a good idea.

    PD is so important to teaching I think there needs to be more credits attached to online activities.

    1. Thank you Ginger Teacher!

      I love podcasts, because there is no schedule to them. I load them up on my phone and then when I find myself stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or just have a few minutes I give one a listen. I couldn't agree more that teachers should be given credits attached to online professional growth as well!


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