You’re Not Lost in the Woods - Leveraging the Power of Personal Professional Development!

So this week’s post is another BIG passion of mine!!  One of the biggest frustrations many teachers have expressed to me over the years and one I’ve dealt with in the past is that the professional development we SOMETIMES receive from our districts either 1.) Doesn’t feel like it relates to our content or our classroom, or 2.) Isn’t something that helps us grow as educators.  For various reasons, sometimes it feels like we aren’t getting what we feel like we need as educators because logistical things (and yes, these are necessary things to accomplish in schools) seem to take priority.

That’s okay.  You are not lost in the woods. You’re not David Livingstone stuck near the Zambezi River  You have a compass, you have a map, you have boots, you have trekking poles and all of it is at your fingertips, local bookstore, and among your colleagues!

Which brings us to four key ways to #CannonballIn with personal professional development!


First, the simplest and most direct way I’ve found is to stalk Amazon or your local bookstore for intriguing and interesting education books.  This is where I started with Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  I fell in love with the passion and energy contained in this book & “teaching manual”, so I was determined to find more.  I discovered Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz a few weeks later, and what followed was an endless amount of discovery of new books, mostly from Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc., but also from people like Ron Clark.  Reading these in my spare time or during silent reading time with students has helped to change and shape the way I teach and how I interact with students. The advantage here was that I got to pick and choose the topics I was interested in, and most of these books sparked a desire to find other books and authors they referenced. Just as a compass helps you know which way you are headed, stalking the bookstores can help give direction to the next steps.


Second, if you’re not on Twitter, you need to get an account.  As Aaron Hogan has mentioned, “Twitter won’t change your life, but the people you meet there will.”  This is the essence of the online educator community. Pick a topic you have a passion about or are interested in, and there is likely a Twitter chat about it.  Some of my favorites include: #worldgeochat, #XPLAP, #tlap, and #sschat. If you’re more into the Google search way of finding stuff, there is plenty of cool resources out there and plenty of conferences to look at or YouTube videos that can help.  Great places to go include: Edutopia, The Teaching Channel, and YouTube. YouTube is where I discovered a lot of my PD on Standards-Based Grading by watching Rick Wormeli videos on YouTube. It takes a little while to uncover stuff, so pairing this with some bookstore stalking can help some open some ideas for good searches. The map pairs well with a compass to provide a pathway and see what may lie ahead of you, so logging on to Twitter can help you learn the possible obstacles and solutions you may need on your journey.


The third place ties in greatly with the previous idea, and that is seeking out free places that offer conferences, whether they be physical or digital.  A great free resource I attended this weekend is EDCampJOCO at Olathe West High School. This was an outstanding morning of learning, as I got to hear Tara Martin speak about #BookSnaps, which was on my Ed Conference bucket list, and got to learn a bit about podcasting, which I’ve been thinking about getting involved with as well.  I also got to share my joy of gamification and standards-based grading by presenting with Jordan Billings. Another great resource that launched last summer was the Hive Summit, hosted by Michael Matera. You can subscribe to it at and check out #HiveSummit on Twitter for some awesome video podcasts with some of the biggest innovators in the world of education.  Subscribe today & get in on the learning fun! A sturdy pair of boots will prevent those blisters, rolled ankles, and other maladies that cause us to stumble and perhaps turn back. Finding the free conferences can provide that extra support when online chats or reading books isn’t quite enough to help you get to where you want to be.


Finally, the one that costs.  Find conferences that spark your interests and passions.  The cost factor can sometimes be intimidating, so reach out to leaders in your district for funds to help support the cost of travel and conference registration.  Have confidence in yourself and make the pitch to them about why you need & want to go. We need to encourage educators who want to get better by providing them the spaces and funds necessary to help them grow.  I’m fortunate to be in an awesome district that does this on a regular basis, but I know other may not be so fortunate, so I’d like to suggest an affordable and wonderful conference that can help get you started: Summer Spark at University School Milwaukee.  It is an awesome two day conference with some of the greatest educators in the country! Plus, it’s a very reasonable price and fairly centrally located, making travel and expense much easier to deal with. Come join us and be a part of sparking change in your teaching, classroom, and school! Just as trekking poles allow you to move faster down the trail, traveling to conferences can truly get you speeding down the path toward your personal summit!

Summit Seeker(s) of the Week: This week I’m shouting out another amazing educator and colleague: Amy Walker. Amy is simply amazing, having taught both 5th grade and 7th grade, bringing an infectious smile and wonderful positivity to our school and her classroom. Her leadership as part of our social studies professional development group has helped shape our department’s growth, and her encouragement to come to @EdCampJOCOKS was all the motivation I needed to spend a Saturday morning getting better as an educator.  In every way, Amy makes the teachers around her better and her students find success through her innovative and encouraging classroom! You can follow Amy on Twitter @MrsWalkerOPS