Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Professional Development & Developing Professional Goals

Through my work in the Michigan State University Masters of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum program, I have come to learn a great deal about the importance of Professional Development. Professional Development, also known as PD to many of us, can evoke a range of emotions from excitement to dread, with the latter being unacceptable. Why is it that we sometimes dread our PD? 

"The test of professional development lies in teachers' access to professional opportunities that afford them satisfaction, support and stimulation appropriate to their stage of carreer and that make good use of their acquired expertise and experience" (Little, 2006, p. 3).
This statement struck me as particularly interesting, because I have always felt that I have had very little say in what PD experiences I was exposed to. In my pre-service years, I would go to trainings that were of particular interest to me, and the schools I was working in (which as a pre-service teacher clearly weren't paying for me) never had an issue with me going to those trainings. I thought it was a really wonderful experience and thought that PD would work like that in the "real world" of teaching. However, I have frequently found myself participating in PD opportunities of which I have very little desire to be there... PD that provides me little satisfaction or stimulation. These PD experiences are typically ones that claim to "cater to all" teachers and pays little attention to what stage of development the teacher is in, or the type of curriculum with which they are engaging students. Even in this one-size-fits-all approach, where there would be opportunity for veterans to share their knowledge with novices and vice versa, there is little to no interaction amongst colleagues that provides any actual growth for the individuals. 
However, my school leader does support teachers as we wish to pursue PD experiences and she does everything in her power possible to make sure we can attend those experiences. In this sense, we are able to select PD that we find engaging (similar to my pre-service experience) and thus satisfying and stimulating. The benefits of this would best be achieved if we attended in small groups. If we went as small-groups to these trainings, we would have other colleagues to build on and revisit that experience with, as well as become ambassadors for implementing the learning at our schools. This would help sustain the learning from the PD as well as it would keep a learning community within the teacher's building. 
My goals, and therefore my professional development choices for the near future include:
  • Becoming more adept at creating math projects related to current events and happenings for my students.
  • Fostering the growth mindset within my classroom.
  • Helping to empower girls in mathematics and STEM/STEAM courses and careers
  • Becoming a more skilled teacher-leader/department lead, and helping my team to establish goals and work toward them in a fashion that is smarter not harder.
  • Strategically (and simultaneously) teaching my students various literacies they need to be successful in life, including digital and quantitative literacies
Now it's time to pick one to focus on and create a SMART goal for myself. Look for it soon!