Sustaining your own Professional Development

As a secondary school teacher in Ontario, I think I’m entitled to 3 days of PD per year.  Of course, what really busts my bacon about that is that the PD is dictated to me.  I think I spend about 20 additional days per year seeking out professional development on my own terms.  Of course, no one knows what you need better than yourself.  We preach differentiation for each student, but we don’t seem to do that for teachers.  People say that’s the difference between Finland and Canada….that Finland trusts its teachers to be professional.  Huh.

One of my classmates in the University of Alberta TLDL program  just pointed out a Valenza blog post that mentioned one of my strategies for keeping abreast of new developments in education, library and technology….I direct my own PD.  It makes my administration crazy, but I take advantage of whatever I can, and I also say no to things that won’t be useful to me.  Here’s some examples of my crazy PD antics:

  1. Webinars….whenever we can.  Buffy Hamilton has one coming up that I suggested that we turn into a board-wide PD opportunity, and we’re doing it!!
  2. On a day of pre-scheduled PD that I had already seen, I asked permission to visit a teacher I knew from Twitter and had met briefly at a conference, if I could come and see his library.  Since he’s in a different board,he was teaching that day, and I got to see his grade 9 class where they are trying to level the playing field of digital fluency by making his 9 week courses mandatory for all grade 9s! His name is Peter McAsh and I learned so much from being able to see that in person and speak with the students as well as with Peter.  I even had an hour in his school library.
  3. Volunteer to convene and present at conferences….gives you a discount usually on registration and hotel, so that you can attend the rest.  I’ve attended 3 conferences already this year.
  4. Piggybacking on subject-specific PD….I’ll be attending reading workshops and post-secondary science workshops because I invite myself along!
  5. Lurk, follow, post, debate on social networking sites….Twitter is my favourite.
  6. My favourite PD over the last two years:
Hopefully you have a regional equivalency of some of these….if not, join ours! So much of what we do now in PD is available online, or should be.   So I learn new things all the time, but you have to direct your own learning.  I also bring homemade business cards, and take the time to add new contacts to my Twitter account, or whatever you’re using to stay in touch.
I truly believe that as privileged educators who are ranked as highly in educational standards as we do, that we are obligated to publish our process so that we can learn from each other.  Why re-invent the wheel when we can just find new teachers throughout the globe to further our own learning?  Word.


Leave a Comment

  1. Alanna,

    You’re absolutely on the right track with your PD. The old model of ‘sit and git’ from conferences or one-off events is broken (has never worked well). To model life-long learning, we have to do the kinds of things you’re doing. Most important is to grow our Personal Learning Networks so that we’re ALWAYS growing as professionals, not just on those particular days our school leaders this we’re supposed to be. I’m sure they’d think their strategy is silly if they spent a little time growing their own PLNs.

    Kudos for what you are doing.




  2. Alanna,

    What a great post! I’m an English as a Foreign Language teacher from Argentina but, even though I’m so far away and our contexts are so different,I totally agree with you. We must take responsibility for our own PD. Social networking is great to meet other educators and discuss ideas.I’m not a twitter fan, but I love facebook and have learnt a lot from keeping in contact with collegues that way.

    Let’s keep on learning! Hugs from Argentina.



    1. Thanks for your encouraging words. I think that you’ll agree that intrinsic learning in our students needs to be modelled by teachers. I really appreciate your feedback.


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