George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Taking Control of Your Professional Growth

Teachers can continue learning by assessing their own needs and seeking out resources that are readily available.

July 14, 2021
Tashi-Delek / iStock

We made it through this school year, and educators are taking a collective deep and well-deserved breath. Our recovery will take time, but it will allow us to build bridges between past practices and new educational visions. The first step: let go of what didn’t work and proactively pivot toward learning that ignites curiosity. If we want our students to be active learners, critical consumers, real-world connectors, and innovative creators, we should seek out learning opportunities that are tailored to meet our needs.

With so many professional learning mandates handed down by schools, districts, and states, finding ways as educators to take some control of this process can help make professional learning personal.

3 Ways to Seek Out Professional Learning

1. Navigate the #EduTwitter space. Twitter is a powerful vehicle for growing your professional learning network and is one-stop shopping for your educational needs.

  • Join a Twitter chat. It’s usually pretty easy to find educators chatting about topics you’re interested in. The cross-pollination of ideas and resources shared can be a powerful catalyst of cultivating connections and bringing new ideas that will impact student learning to fruition. We personally enjoy #CultureEd, #FutureReady, #G2Great, #Empathetic_Educators, #Satchat, #TLap, #CrazyPLN, #EducationNeverDies, and #Read2Lead (just to name a few).
  • Find colleagues outside of your network to be thought partners. Scroll through the chat hashtags to revisit the learning that transpired. Don’t be afraid to directly message the educators who participated. This can build connections, foster collaborations, and continue the conversation.
  • Stay up-to-date on education trends. Twitter is a great space to find out about other professional learning opportunities, new books, podcasts, and current professional resources.

2. Read professional books, articles, and blog posts. Gather to discuss professional texts within your organization. Having a shared experience can improve instructional practices, connect theory with practice, and strengthen the communication of a vision and specific initiatives.

  • Select a focus for your book choices, and generate targeted questions to guide and deepen your conversations.
  • Request a time to share out during staff meetings about the learning from your book group. If you make this a regular practice, you can shift staff meetings to focus on professional learning.
  • Invite the author to be part of your discussion. Most authors are very accessible and can be reached on a variety of social media platforms.
  • Participate in a self-paced Voxer book study to connect with educators outside of your local network. Learn about, from, and with people who come with varied experiences and perspectives.

3. Listen to podcasts. This is convenient professional learning on the go. Listening to various people share learning and have critical conversations can influence, confirm, and shift your thinking while you exercise, wait in line at a store, or commute back and forth.

  • Figure out your podcast goal. What is it that you want to learn from listening? Do you want to laugh as you reflect? Are you seeking multiple voices and perspectives? Find shows that meet your needs.
  • Speed it up or slow it down. The beauty of a podcast is that you can make it the pace you need.
  • Connect with others who are interested in similar topics. After listening, be sure to comment on the podcaster’s social media. Connect with them and continue the conversation with others online.

Explore podcasts that will pique your interests, spark new ideas, and push your thinking. Here are some we enjoy: 

Future Ready (Thomas C. Murray)

Lemonade Learning (Brianna Hodges and Lainie Rowell)

Teach Better Talk (Jeff Gargas and Rae Hughart)

The Cult of Pedagogy (Jennifer Gonzalez)

Teachers on Fire (Tim Cavey)

Rethinking Learning (Barbara Bray)

The Staffroom Podcast (Chey and Pav)

Dare to Lead (Brené Brown)

The Dr. Will Show (Will Deyamport)

ThriveInEdu (Rachelle Dene Poth)

If you can’t find it, create it: Invite others in your region to a local edcamp. The greatest knowledge in the room is the room. Sessions are developed on the day of the edcamp by educators who want to explore specific topics. Attendees can visit various rooms based on their learning needs, feel supported by others, and share out about topics. This enables all of the participants to share their experiences and be both facilitators and learners in the same flexible space. You can apply to host an official edcamp in your area and get help with the entire process.

Now is the time to be in the driver’s seat of your own professional learning. We no longer have to wait for professional learning to come to us. We owe it to ourselves to choose how, when, and what we want to learn.

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