Saturday, January 29, 2011

First Thoughts... Being an Expert!

This is the first blog post for me.  I'm hoping that my posts will help other teacher - whether it be a new teacher seeking assurance that he/she is doing the right thing or a veteran teacher that needs a pick-me-up every once in a while.  My blog will just flow off from my thoughts as a teacher (more information about me is in my profile).  So the journey begins...

Last night, two of my closest colleagues and I went to dinner.  One of them is pursuing her master's degree in curriculum and instruction and the other has her master's degree already.  The one that is currently in the master's program was asking our insight on the various assignments she has for this term.  One of the questions sparked my interest - it said something to the effect of: How will you pursue professional development which will promote a life of continuous learning?  I asked her (I was driving) if the professor meant promote professional development among other teachers or if the professor was specifically talking to her.  She didn't know, but we took it as she was the target.  At first, I thought this was odd.  Why would they want them to focus on themselves and their life-long desire for education?

Then I had a flashback to a lesson in my class earlier this week.  We have been refining our knowledge of author's purpose, specifically the purpose of persuasion.  One of the characteristics is to get an expert's perspective.  In helping my students understand who an expert was, we talked about various careers.

     Ms. L:  Does anyone know who an expert is?
     All students in small-group:  (shook heads no)
     Ms. L:  (thinking I did teach them this) If you go to the doctor, who will know the most about making sure you are healthy?
     Destinie:  The doctor will.
     Ms. L:  How do you know the doctor will be able to help you?
     Destinie:  Because he went to school to be a doctor and knows all about our body and how to fix it.
     Ms. L:  What does a veterinarian know most about?
     Trinity:  They know how to take care of our pets.
     Ms. L:  That is exactly right.  We call these people experts because they know about a specific topic really well.  What am I an expert at?
     Julissa:  Being a teacher!

I remembered this because I am an expert at being a teacher.  But an expert does not stop learning in their field.  They are constantly seeking information and revising their thinking.  I compare it to doctors.  Would I rather see a doctor who has been practicing the same procedures since he started medicine, or would I see a doctor who is constantly researching the new procedures in the field of medicine.  I think the latter would be my choice.

The same could be applied to teaching.  I am always trying to research new ideas, new strategies, and new ways of reaching our ever-changing youth.  Last year, I earned 103 hours of Continueing Professional Education (CPE) credits, of which 71.5 of those were off-duty credits.  This past summer, I attended a 2-week Literacy Institute hosted by my district to further my knowledge of reading and writing instruction.  Noone told me that I had to attend this professional development, nor even told me I should.  I did it on my own accord.

What does all of this mean?  Well, I have been able to promote the great courses and facilitators to other teachers on my campus and in my district.  I have been able to implement the new ideas and strategies learned at these workshops in my own classroom.  In turn, my students show me their thinking in more ways than one because of them.  I have searched for and read many books on the profession because of recommendations at these workshops.  These have turned into recommendations for my peers and good starting point to the often question I get now, "Where did you get that idea from?". 

Most recently, I have started a book club with other teachers on my campus.  I feel I can now select a great book that meets the needs of teachers at various levels.  Our book club is reading Teaching Word Analysis Skills (Bishop).  I sent out an email to every teacher on campus informing them about the book club, the book, and how to get started.  They even had to purchase the book with their own funds.  I was hopeful, but also realistic, that most would probably not want to do it.  In fact, my own mother even asked me who was in it, and then proceed to say, "Probably most of your friends there, right?"!  Wrong!  We have a teacher from every grade level, and this definitely makes conversations meaningful.  I was suprised at the interest, and even more surprised at the dedication of these teachers.  Our first meeting was last week, and the discussion was more than crickets chirping in the field!

So, I guess I can understand the professors question now.  Ultimately, your interest in life-long learning will flow into another person's interest.  I am an expert at teaching.  I am constantly researching new ideas.  I am constantly seeking to develop myself and not waiting on others (i.e., grade-level, campus, district, etc.). 

Do you have plans of professional development?  Now is the time to start thinking about these plans.  Summer will be upon us soon!  And as my dad always told me growing up, "The more you know, the more you grow.  Knowledge is power!"

Until next time...

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