Isn’t it interesting how so many teachers are self-proclaimed nerds? Nerd is a term that recently has become quite trendy. That has not always been the case. When I was in middle and high school, I can assure you it was an insult to be called a nerd. I cringe remembering how in some cases, I did all that I could to avoid that label. However, today I wear the nerd label proudly. It’s hard work staying on top of research, trends, conferences, and professional literature. But the end result is so worth it. Here are some ways I manage to be non-complacent in a career that has spanned over 18 years and will hopefully grow to 30+ years.
Make sure to make connections to other educators. Start within your own building. Find a group of like-minded, positive people that you can learn with and from. Then, gradually expand to others in your district, state, and across the nation. One easy way to do this is through social media. I joined Twitter last year and it has changed my career. I have connected with educators across the country (and world) that have inspired and taught me how to be a better teacher. I believe in the power of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs). But you have to go out there and get involved!
Another way to stay on top of trends and research in the education community is to join organizations and subscribe to professional journals. I love receiving my “Literacy Today” magazine from the International Literacy Association. After I read them I bring them to school to share with other teachers in my building. It’s crucial that educators know what is happening outside of the bubble that is their district and state.
Conferences, Camps, and Collaboration…Oh My!
Hopefully you work in a district and/or school that promotes professional development. If so, take advantage of the conferences around your state or even the nation.
I have a few big tips for attending a conference. First, go with a team if possible. I say this because I have attended conferences by myself as well as with a group. The difference is amazing. After attending solo, I would come back to my school and be so excited to change the world. One small problem…I had to spend a lot of time creating buy in from my colleagues because they did not attend the conference, hear inspiring speakers, see the products, or get energized from being around other eager educators. Attending a conference with a group allows you to split up and attend lots of different sessions and then come back together to collaborate. On the flip side, you can also attend sessions together that align with your school/district vision and then debrief afterwords. Plus, when you go with a group, they can hold you accountable for taking action after the conference.
My next tip is the “law of two feet“. A lot of conferences have you register for specific sessions. This is awesome because you are guaranteed a seat, you can focus on certain topics, and you can hear a variety of presenters. However, not all sessions will be a perfect fit for you. I have gone to presentations that, once in there, I realized I didn’t need that information or it wasn’t relevant for me. I also have gone to sessions where I didn’t care for the speaker’s presentation style. So, I used my “two feet” to quietly leave and find a session that did meet my needs.
There are so many great conferences out there. Here are a few to get you started!
Staff Development for Educators or SDE is one of my favorites. They offer conferences all over the country. I have found that they offer a variety of topics, presenters, and locations.
North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching or NCCAT is a state funded conference available for North Carolina Teachers. Housing, meals, and conferences are free to teachers. This is a conference every NC teacher should experience.
International Society for Technology in Education or ISTE was created by educators in Oregon who asked “what if” questions about how to make teaching and learning more meaningful. If you can’t afford to go to a national conference, find your state chapter, such as North Carolina Technology in Education Society or NCTIES.
EdCamps are participant driven and such a cool event to attend. At the beginning of the camp, participants submit questions, ideas, and topics and the organizers of the camp design a schedule. You can then go to any of the sessions that interest you. Here is the catch…there are no presenters. The participants engage in conversation and collaborate. Most edcamps take place on the weekend and are FREE! Learn more about them here.
My professional library started with all of my education text books from college. Then, my school began to give me books for professional development and book studies. Over time, my collection grew. However, I noticed that they were all books someone else had chosen for me. I wanted to start adding books that I selected and that helped inspire me in the classroom. I used to borrow my colleague’s books, but found that I like to annotate the text, add post-it notes, and highlight so I began to buy my own. Here are a few of my favorite books.
Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros is a game changer. Couros is also a dynamic public speaker, so if you get the chance to see him, I highly suggest it.
Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is an inspiring book that will help impact student learning in your classroom. Burgess explains how to engage students in your classroom.
The Artisan Teacher by Mike Rutherford is a “Field Guide to Skillful Teaching” and helps teachers examine 23 Themes such as Mid-Course Corrections, Time and Timing, and Stagecraft.
The world of education changes almost daily. It is easy to get left behind, fall into a rut, and become complacent. Make sure to find ways to challenge yourself. Find ways to get inspired and stay inspired. Get involved in your educational community and become a change agent. In doing so, you will impact student learning in your classroom, school, district, and even state.
I would love to hear what you do to be a non-complacent teacher. Leave a comment including your Twitter handle to connect to other educators.
Remember to follow me on Twitter @LisaJohnsonEDU to read other educational posts.