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Tip of the Week: 5 ways to maximize professional learning

Summer is a perfect time to rethink your professional learning goals. We all need to get better at what we do, to hone our craft, to find ways to improve our skills. In a recent interview, business author Tom Peters suggested that one way to “deal with the insane pace of change” is to “learn new things.”

Seems simple enough. But I think too often we approach our jobs without a growth mindset, without being intentional about “learning new things.” We ask our students to learn new skills and content. But because of time, support, or inclination, we don’t always do that ourselves.


What can we do this summer to maximize our own professional learning?

We all need to read more. This might be print books. or digital books. Print or online newspapers. Flipboard. Blogs. (And I would count podcasts as “reading.” My new fav? Keeping It 1600.) Not just in social studies or current events but in topics outside your comfort zone. And don’t limit yourself to non-fiction. Traditional and modern literature provides a powerful window into the human condition. What is history but a story well told?

Writing has a lot of benefits for teachers. It can help you master specific content, improve thinking skills, solidify lesson / unit design, and connect you with student and parents.  And if possible, make your writing public. Asking students to create public products encourages higher quality products. It’s the same with us. Nothing wrong with private print or online journals. But publishing your thoughts and ideas in a public forum such as a blog or website forces you to focus on constant improvement.

You might use Google Blogger, Edublogs, WordPress, Wix, or Weebly.

Attend conferences / workshops
It sounds pretty traditional but attending conferences and workshops are still pretty amazing places to hone your skills. It might be here at ESSDACK, the National Council for the Social Studies conference, or your state conference. No funds for paid conferences? Head to one of the many free or inexpensive EdCamps that are springing up all over. Focus on the conversations, not just the presentations. Chat up someone sitting next to you. Hit up the presenter afterwards for their contact info. Find and participate in the Birds of a Feather / Unconference type informal gatherings that most conferences have.

And I’m not talking about your regular teaching gig. I’m talking about teaching in a variety of different settings. Remember those conferences I was talking about? Most provide free or reduced registration fees for workshop presenters and speakers. So . . . take one of those books you’ve been reading or one of those really effective strategies that works for you and develop a quick 50 minute conference presentation. Apply to the conference of your choice and presto, you’re smarter because of the prep and attendees are smarter because you shared.

Or maybe it’s not a conference. Maybe it’s just 10 minutes at your next faculty meeting or PLC or department meeting. Maybe you create a handy newsletter with Canva or Smore that you send out to other social studies teachers. But don’t just learn and not share. Get it out there..

Create Peer Relationships
Getting smarter by yourself is hard. You need to have conversation and sharing with others. So set up weekly or monthly Google Hangouts with social studies teachers in another building. Head over to #sschat and lurk / participate in the weekly Twitter #sschats. Join a professional organization – your state social studies council or history ed council or geographic alliance or econ ed group are all awesome places to not just join but volunteer to help. Trust me. All of those local and state organizations are dying for people to get involved. When you work with others and cultivate professional relationships, everyone grows and gets better.

So . . . don’t let summer tempt you too much. Take advantage of the little bit of extra free to walk into your classroom next fall just a tiny bit smarter than you are now.

A quick and easy way to start the process? Share your thoughts in the comments. What books should we read? What podcasts should we listen to? Who should we follow on Twitter?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for your post.
    “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

    June 29, 2016
    • glennw #

      Love the quote! Thanks for sharing.


      June 30, 2016

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