- As an educator, professional learning is an essential part of our career.
- Keep learning with professional development options such as engaging on social media and subscribing to blogs and podcasts.
- You can also keep learning with paid professional development options. Examples include becoming a member of a professional organization, attending conferences, or taking additional classes.
In our last blog for new teachers, we talked about how to grow your personal learning network. Now, let’s put that PLN to use!
Your professional learning should start in the last year of your degree program. This allows you to start networking and really figure out where you want to teach (more on that in a future blog!), and continue into your career. There are so many ways you can learn about the education field, whether you choose a passive experience or more formal education. Continue being a lifelong learner by exploring both the free and paid professional development options below.
Free Professional Development Options
Engage in your social media groups
In our last post, we talked about joining different Facebook groups and connecting with educational thought leaders on social media. Scrolling through your Instagram or Twitter feeds should now feel like a crash course in current educational trends. Make sure you are spending some time engaging in these groups—retweet a blog post or share a classroom activity.
- Teach Better Team Facebook Group
- Young Educators Society
- Teachers Aligned
- Dave Burgess Consulting Inc.
- Pocketful of Primary
- The Zen Teacher
Subscribe to blogs (and YouTube channels)
‘Subscribing’ to a blog or YouTube account means sharing your email address with a content producer and receiving a notification in your inbox with new updates, ideas, and inspiration. You can quickly scan through new topics and decide where you want to dive deeper. This saves time checking in on websites or channels that you like and gives you quick summaries, freeing you up to save the content or engage in it directly. This is especially helpful once you narrow down a niche you want to focus on, like classroom management or English grammar lessons!
- Teach Better Blog or Teach Better Team YouTube
- Real Rap with Reynolds
- The Lettered Classroom
Listen to podcasts
This is my all-time favorite recommendation for passive professional development. Whether you are cooking or commuting, that time can be used to listen to bite-sized lessons from awesome educators! The education podcast community is continuing to grow every day and is sharing some incredible ideas on literally any topic you can think of. Podcasts are also a great way to get exposed to new educators and continue to build your PLN.
Professional Development Options (at a cost)
Membership in a professional organization
Professional memberships provide excellent professional development through targeted networking, journal subscriptions, and access to virtual or in-person courses and lectures. These organizations are also usually targeted at specific areas in education and can be found at local, national, and international levels.
I would recommend asking your colleagues, professors, or your PLN for suggestions on which memberships they found most helpful for their practice before you pay for a membership. They are sometimes required for certain teaching jobs, but it is important to be discerning in your selection before signing up.
- National Educators Association
- International Society for Technology in Education
- National Council of Teachers of English
- National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Whether you learn about a conference through your professional membership or through your PLN, these opportunities are by far my favorite to grow my practice and my network. You will get one-on-one access to some incredible thought leaders, play with new technologies in your field, and be able to explore a variety of topics in one day!
My biggest tip for affordably attending a conference is to look for volunteer opportunities. This will extend your day (I once spent the 5am – 8am hours putting together name tags before the doors opened) but will give you a huge discount on the ticket price! Because this is a great deal, they usually fill up pretty quickly, so when you find a conference you are interested in attending, reach out to the organizers as soon as possible.
I also strongly recommend making a personal connection with presenters after each session you attend. Write down their contact information, and continue the conversation on social media or via email after the conference so you can keep learning! (This is actually how I met Rae, after her session at a Blended Learning conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Best professional connection ever!)
Graduate courses, or additional degree programs
This is by far the most expensive option for continuing your education. But it can absolutely provide a great return on investment if you commit to an additional degree wisely. Many schools will provide a salary bump for teachers with a certain amount of credits or a completed master’s/doctoral program.
However, it makes a difference whether you are going to school full-time or part-time, online or in-person. You should only commit to a program that is in an area and that you feel incredibly passionate about, and through which you see a potential path towards additional forms of income (such as a stipend position in addition to your classroom teaching, or adding a night course at your local college or university).
You should also figure out what time commitment you can make to your degree so you can complete it in the shortest amount of time (and therefore saving you money). I would also recommend that you spend 3-5 years in the classroom before you commit to a degree. The most obvious reason is to gain valuable experience to enhance your formal education. The less obvious reason is that, in some states, you are a less desirable (more expensive) new hire if you already have a master’s degree.
Some school districts may also provide tuition assistance, but they are less willing to invest in someone they’ve just hired as opposed to someone who has been a part of their teaching community for a few years. Taking all of these points into consideration, an additional degree can be a fantastic step in your career![scroll down to keep reading]
As someone who is currently engaging in all of these forms of professional development, I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you…this can be really addicting!
You became a teacher because you value knowledge. Keeping your practice on the pulse of current educational trends is hugely beneficial for both you and your students. But it is important to make sure you are spending your time and your money as efficiently as possible.
Only you can choose what professional development opportunities will best benefit your classroom. If you are in a conference session, and it isn’t meeting your needs, you can walk out and join another session. If you aren’t actually reading the educational journal that appears in your mailbox each month, then maybe you have to reconsider that annual membership fee.
And if you find yourself transitioning to a new position, maybe you can find a more applicable blog or podcast to subscribe to. You need to be selective—with your time and your finances—to keep learning without becoming burnt out.
I feel like that caveat would have helped me out as I began this professional development journey. I hope my experience will help set you up for success. Enjoy being a life-long learner, and becoming an even better teacher!
About Erin Healey
Erin is an English teacher at Chariho High School, in Rhode Island. She is the founder of the Young Educators Society of Rhode Island (@yesriorg), a Highlander Institute Fuse Fellow, current Master’s student studying Education Technology at the University of Connecticut, and can always be found drinking coffee (preferably a PSL)!