Sunday, May 4, 2014

Professional vs. Personal Development

learning to grow.
Photo by Casey Muir-Taylor
Over the last few years we have seen a huge shift in how we develop our teachers. It is no surprise that districts and organizations are beginning to move away from systemic, mass-produced professional development, as the one-size fits all model is neither particularly engaging or effective. With this has come a transformation of PD, with Edcamps and PLCs moving in to take the place of how we traditionally thought about growing teachers.

If you ask teachers, you will probably find that the majority of them are extremely grateful for this change. Teachers need autonomy in how they grow, explore passions, and we also need to build a network of allies that are invested in growing in the same direction as us.

It is becoming more and more apparent to me, as I finish my sixth year of teaching, that being a connected education and having this network of people stretches far beyond my professional growth. This network of people have become far more than colleagues, but true friends that are invested in caring about me as a whole person, not just the piece of me that is an educator. They are people that I connect with over social media, explore educational philosophy and pedagogical struggles with, but it doesn't stop there. I watch them post pictures of their children, celebrate birthdays, and send words of encouragement when hardship and sadness falls. I get messages of encouragement when I am moving into new territory, we share a funny video or new song, and I send a quick note when I haven't heard from someone in a while.

This is a network of people growing the whole educator, caring about the hearts of people.

Last week, I was lucky enough to explore this very topic with a group of educators at Common Ground, the Maryland Society of Technology in Education conference. Andrew Sharos, from Leyden High School in Chicago, was my partner in leading in that session. Andrew and I have worked to connect our classes in various ways this school year and have explored ways to grow as educators. It has been one of the most rewarding and fruitful relationships I have ever had professionally. What I didn't talk about during our presentation were a few of the moments that were more important to me as a person, those points in life when your heart gets a little bigger and your soul a little stronger.

Like getting see Andrew's son for the time.

Or getting to share how our kids at Patterson Park Public Charter School have #leydenpride.

These moments are possible because of being a connected educator, but more than that these experiences have been nurtured by a group of people that encourage educators to take professional development personally. They have become my family in learning and growing and living. 

As we push administrators, districts, and our colleagues to rethink how we grow educators, I will push them to grow the hearts of those around us. When you start with the heart, we all find ways to grow in the direction of love. And when we center that movement in nurturing a community of people that care, it doesn't matter what standards you are nailed to, what curriculum you teach, or what your kids look like, because what you have to give those kids transcends everything external and moves to building internally. These communities allow exceptional personal growth, and that benefits everyone professionally. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Loved reading this! Your writing is beautiful and your message is so true.