How to get better at getting better …
It’s fair to say, the last few years I have undertaken a lot of my own personalised professional development. A significant part of this has been through my reading in various guises. Whether it’s been on social media on Twitter, reading blogs, reading books, educational magazines or through engaging in sharing my own findings through my own practice, I have developed my career to a position which is almost unrecognisable to where I was in my career five years ago.
As an NQT for me, like many other teachers, my priority was just to survive not thrive! I didn’t think I had the time to read any books for professional development or even leisure! I did everything that needed doing and did the best I could. As time has passed on I have become more confident in my teaching practice and schemes of work became embedded, reducing the pressure away from lesson planning and my subject knowledge of the topics I taught also became more in-depth. It was three years ago, after a suggestion from my Deputy Headteacher at the time, I joined Twitter setting up a professional account. Initially, I thought this idea was odd and I couldn’t understand the link between social media and professional development?! However, quickly after joining, I found there were lots of teachers online to follow that were tweeting about teaching and blogging about their classroom, differentiation, growth mindset, leadership – if it was connected to education someone, somewhere was writing about it! This was a revelation to me. At first, I was a reluctant tweeter, instead just absorbing all this advice, words of wisdom and experience that teachers were sharing so freely and openly. Every time I logged into Twitter I learned something new and found a new educator to connect with. I continually learn from others and gain inspiration from the teaching community online.
Eventually, I started sharing some of the ideas and resources that I had been using in my classroom with my pupils. Teachers would like and retweet and provide feedback. Then teachers would get in touch to say they had used or adapted my resource to use with their pupils. This was amazing and filled me with pride knowing I was having a small influence inside a classroom in a different part of the world, with teachers and pupils I had never even met! This sharing online then led to being asked to share my ideas at events such as TeachMeet and conferences. In 2016 I decided that 140 characters (now 280!) wasn’t enough to be able to fully explain the concept and context behind the resources I was sharing, so I then set up my own teaching blog. Blogging is wonderful. It allows me to share what happens in my classroom with the rest of the world. Blogging is also great for reflecting and I think that is key to getting better and continually improving – being a reflective teacher. I reflect about what worked well, how the lesson or parts of the lesson could be improved, I carry out research and I feel I am continuing to grow and progress as a teacher as a result. I am delighted that my blog was nominated and voted by the public to be a finalist in the Education category for the 2018 UK Blog Awards with the winner to be announced in April 2018.
Websites such as Twitter and LinkedIn are also brilliant for networking. As mentioned, I attend a lot of educational events; both in the UK and UAE and I take full advantage of these opportunities to network with other educators, from different schools or geographical locations. There are many benefits of networking; including once again learning from others, expanding your support network and of course being well connected can help in regards to new professional opportunities. Find out what educational events are happening in your area, in the UK you can find out about TeachMeet events from this website and for the UAE I recommend following SPARK educators website.
Time is so precious for teachers and often we don’t have enough time! In addition to our busy workloads we recognise the importance of making time for our work and life balance. With so many time constraints it can be difficult to make time for professional reading and writing. However, I have made time and I do believe as educators, lifelong learners and professionals that we do have a duty to read, learn and continually progress. Reading and reflecting has led to my increased confidence and job satisfaction.
Finally, my main advice for getting better at getting better is to take control of your own professional development. Taking control allows your professional development to be personalised and enjoyable. Get connected online as it provides instant professional development at your fingertips. Read as much as you can from blogs, magazines and books – dedicate the time to reading and reflecting. Build your professional learning network, this can be online or through face to face interaction. Also, getting better at what we do is part of the ongoing learning process, it is never ending so it is for us to decide which career path we take and we can take more control of that.