As teachers, we instill in our students the important notion of being a lifelong learner, and there’s no better way to show how this applies to the real world than by modeling it for our students. In school, opportunities for learning arise every single day, in everything you do, whether it be in formal ways such as through professional development, or informally, like having a conversation with students or parents.
Importance of Professional Development
Let’s first examine the formal learning and continuing education we can embrace. Professional development means exactly what the title says; it helps educators to continually develop professionally. Professional development helps provide training to teachers for new programs, develops new ways to teach concepts to students, and provides various ways to refine what it is that you are teaching. As a teacher, you want to give students the best experience possible in your classroom, and staying current with new trends in education is an excellent way to keep your students engaged.
Understanding Evolving Curriculum
Staying on top of new curriculum is also important. Understanding how curriculum is a “live document” and how it is continually changing can help you to evolve and grow as an educator. Understanding the horizontal and vertical alignment of a curriculum is beneficial, as it can help you to target areas where gaps can form. Increasing student achievement is always a main goal, and strong knowledge of what you are teaching can certainly help to do that.
Getting a Graduate Degree
Additionally, advancing in your career or your education can provide you with many new avenues for job growth. When you achieve a graduate degree, you give yourself the ability to make a move to a different career path. For instance, if you get a master’s degree in education and leadership, you can make a vertical move into school or district administration. You are then able to apply your knowledge and skill base to a larger population, and to help guide teachers to continue their learning. It can also help you to develop different vantage points of situations. From my personal experience, graduate school gave me the ability to understand where many administrative decisions came from, as they need to make decisions that align with a more state, national, or global level than a classroom teacher does.
There are many informal and valuable ways to continue your education. A classroom teacher does formal and informal assessments, and many teachers will tell you that the informal assessments help more than the formal ones in guiding instruction. Taking the time to understand your students and their needs, wants, and likes can help you to understand how to better teach them. As an example, understanding the social media world and the positives and negatives of it, as well as seeing the educational benefits of it, can help you better relate to your students.
Another valuable informal way to continue your “informal” education is by having lunch with your students to catch up with them. You can also have a five-minute conversation with your students when you run into them with their families at the store. Why not attend a student’s baseball game and catch a couple innings, or go watch the school play that your students worked so hard to put on? When you make students feel confident and valued in what they do, it carries over into the classroom.