I have to thank Mr. James Cowper from Ontario Canada for the inspiration for this blog post, which seems strange as I’ve never met him. It was this tweet from him that inspired me:
I’ve been struggling this year with the amount of time that I am scheduled to be out of the classroom for professional development. Being in the classroom with my students is my passion and my joy and I honestly do have a hard time leaving them behind. The reasons for this are partly egotistical: I like to believe that nobody can teach my lessons the way I would . A greater part is frustration: sometimes the mandated sessions that I am required to attend are not relevant or challenging and sometimes, since the guest teacher system was privatized, I have to leave my wonderful students in the hands of a random guest teacher who I have never met. Recently, I had to radically alter my prepared lesson plans at the last minute when a delightful little elderly lady showed up and told me she couldn’t even read my lesson plans as the font was so small. Technology integration was obviously going to be a stretch!
But professional development is a necessary part of my job. Part of the safety demonstration on a plane states that if you are travelling with children you must put on your own oxygen mask first in order to help the children. The same principal applies in the classroom-in order to educate our students we must first educate ourselves. Teachers often arrive in their classrooms to find that new technology has been delivered overnight: interactive whiteboards, iPads, clicker response systems to name a few. We also have a huge shift in curriculum delivery to contend with following the adoption of the Common Core Standards. It sometimes feels like waking up to find a Boeing 747 parked on the driveway with a note saying figure out how to fly this, you’ll be transporting 300 hundred passengers tomorrow!
So I accept that I have to attend professional development and I embrace the fact that I need to learn and grow as a teacher in order to do the best job that I can for my students, they deserve nothing less. I attend district meetings to make connections with other teachers who I can share and learn with, keep up with district developments and represent my school’s unique perspective. I attend conferences to become inspired by the experiences of other teachers and bring back to my students innovative and engaging ways to learn. I attend classes to maintain my professional certification and stay in touch with current pedagogy and best practice.
So how do I minimize the impact my absence has on my students? I try to ensure that I secure the services of a competent and reliable guest teacher in my absence, one who has an established relationship with both me and my students. I leave detailed lesson plans and work hard to institute routines that encourage my students to be independent thinkers and learners. In the event of problems I make myself available to my guest teacher, parents and students via email and Skype. I take advantage of the expertise of my colleagues and try to incorporate team teaching activities at best and offer them up as support at least.
What can I do better? I think I need to communicate more to my parents and students about where I am going and how attending professional development sessions have a direct and positive impact on my classroom. I need to work on finding balance, and enlist the help of my administrators in determining what is necessary, preferred and superfluous. I also need to breathe and realize that I can’t learn and implement everything immediately, despite the fact I want to because I want to be the best teacher that I can be.
This also applies to my role as a mom. On Saturday morning I was watching a presentation live from Edscape 2012, and my son told me that for Christmas he just wants me to not logon on to my computer for a whole day. I am a teacher that loves to learn and I hope that my occasional absence from both my classroom and from my family inspires my students and my own children to mirror my love of learning, and embark on their own unique lifelong learning journeys.