Normally I just lurk around on #edchat. There are hundreds of teachers that participate in the Twitter chat that takes place on Tuesday nights at 5:00pm MST. But last Tuesday the conversation in the room was about alternative forms of PD. And it was suggested that we stop calling PD Professional Development (which makes it sound obligatory) and start calling it Passion Development.
When I talk to teachers about the PD they find the most valuable, quite often they rank mandated or “prescribed” PD way at the bottom of the list. The ones they get the most out of? The ones they CHOOSE because it was an area of interest, or….dare I say it? An area of passion for them.
As the AISI leader in my school (fancy tittle for saying I’m one of two curriculum leaders) PD is my primary responsibility. But with the ever growing cuts to education, days of being able to trapse off to whatever fancy conference you wanted to are growing to a close. Why? It’s not just the conference that costs money…a school pays out:
Sub pay for at least one day, possible two ($180 – $360), Conference fees ($250 – $750 on average), hotel costs ($260/person/two day conference), travel costs (average of $150 for a 3 hour road trip).
That’s potentially nearly $1000 to send a teacher to a 2 day conference that is about three hours away by car. Now some of us avoid these costs by going to cheaper conferences, not claiming mileage, staying with friends if we can, or giving up a day off by choosing a conference over a weekend to avoid sub costs.
So the question posed is….what else can we do? What can we turn to to eliminate PD costs while still maintining the value of PD?
If you follow celebrities, Twitter is frivilous entertainment and a waste of my time. I follow educators, educational authors, researchers, and people of value. I have created a network of nearly 350 followers. Why is this a good thing? Because I have connections all over the globe now.
#1) Time saver
I needed resources on a research unit on the Titanic. Google gives me over 3,000,000 hits. I wanted GOOD links that people knew of without having to sift through all the garbage that would eat up hours of my time. I tweeted it. And it was re-tweeted by people in my network who then reached out to people in their own network who didn’t even know me! Within 24 hours I had multiple resource links tweeted back to me and I didn’t spend a single minute looking up anything on Google.
I have teachers from as far away as Australia who follow me. It expands my classroom and gives me contact with amazing people I never would have met before. I know many profound American educators that I share research, classroom tips, and resource ideas with on a daily basis. I’m not limited as the only Grade 8 teacher in my building anymore. I have surpassed those boundaries and potential teaching blocks. I’ve made connections with amazing educators around the province of Alberta that I’ve contact several times for assistance. @joe_bower for Middle School/PD/grading without testing strategies. @d_martin05 for help with Math even though he teaches highschool and I teach middle school. @j_watson15 for writing lesson ideas and art activites. @ShawnMcCusker for help with debate ideas in my Social Studies class. I don’t have to be an expert anymore, I have the combined knowledge of over 300 educators at my disposal.
#3) Chat sessions
The best PD I do is an hour every Monday with #sschat and on Tuesdays with #edchat. How’s that for on-going PD? Forget the one weekend conference where I get over loaded with more ideas than I can ever hope to accomplish. Here is a manageable chunk of my time on ONE thing of interest that can be meaningful to my classroom development.
#4) Other “experts”
My learning isn’t just about my teaching either. Got a tech problem? Tweet it out. Looking for a new car? Tweet it out. (PS. Thanks @kaminskiterry) Need a class to Skype with? Tweet it out.
The results are nearly instant and once you’ve built up a network, they are far more helpful than you could have imagined.
I can virtually attend any conference I want around the world through hastags. These are tags that tweeters use to essentially “bookmark” their thoughts and combine them with the thoughts of others who are also in attendance. It’s basically like reading someone else’s notes even if you missed class. I still get it on the big ideas of the learning that took place even though I couldn’t attend. And if I want to know something more in depth? I simply contact someone who was there – easy as that!
#6) And finally….
It’s free. Need I say more?
In a world where education cutbacks are becoming the norm, we can’t afford to give up on ourselves. We are life long learners. It’s what we model and it’s what we do. But don’t call it “professional” development. That makes it sound like something we are “have to do” instead of something we “get to do”. Find your passion and go with it.
I’m a passionate social studies teacher. History is my life! I’ve planned almost every major holiday I’ve taken based around how I could visit and study historical sites. So I tend to choose to follow and communicate with other social studies teachers through #sschat.
Pick a path and follow it. It will keep you motivated to come back to those chats week after week, to connect with other educators in your field, and if you have to give up an hour of you at home time for a Twitter chat? It’s ultimately going to fulfill an element of your teaching soul that you can draw on for later.
Don’t develop your profession, develop your passion within the profession.
And for those who tell me they don’t need twitter or other PD because they are comfortable in their classrooms? That they know everything they need to know about their curriculum and how to teach it? That they can’t find anything to really be truly passionate about when it comes to growing as a teacher?
I say to these people….have you considered another profession?
Twitter has granted me more concrete PD in the past six months then I’ve had in 4 years of conferences. Feel free to follow me. My twitter ID is @cherraolthof.