Be the change, being a teacher

The Missing Part of Great Professional Development

I started my newest book Passionate Readers with a chapter on teacher reading identity.  At first, I couldn’t quite grasp why my brain kept going there, after all, this was meant to be a book for teachers, not about teachers.  And yet, every time I went to write, my mind wanted me to write about teachers and the decisions we make.  How our own reading experience colors every decision we make within our reading instruction and beyond.  How our own school experience sneak into the way we teach, whether we are aware of or not.  How the very essence of who we are influences everything we do.

Need proof?  Look at your classroom library and search for your own reading gaps, books you don’t like to read,  and then look at which books you are purchasing most of?  Which ones are you not?  I guarantee that part of your book gap comes down to your own reading preferences.

I started Passionate Readers with teacher identity because so much of what we do depends on who we are.

Depends on what we bring with us through our own experiences.

Depends on how we see ourselves in the world.

And yet, how often is our professional development focused on who we are?

How often are our conversations focused on what we need to change in ourselves, rather than what students need to change?

How often do we get multiple ideas for what students will experience or create without looking at the process we need to go through as professionals first?

How often do we spend lots of time learning about student’s needs, development, or even the latest greatest thing, without ever turning the lens inward?

How often would we rather embrace change when we are the ones implementing it rather than the ones experiencing it?

Yesterday, as we had a professional day in our district, I was reminded of the power of starting with teacher development, rather than what to do with students.  To focus on who we are, what we bring, and how we need to change before we focus on more things to work on with students.

We have been going through an equity discussion throughout the year and rather than focus on all of the things we could be doing with students, we have been focusing on who we are as teachers, as people.  We have focused on what we need to work on ourselves before we even dive into the work with our students.

It is powerful to start with ourselves, it is also super hard, even uncomfortable at times.

To realize my own implicit biases and how they color my worldview.

To realize how my own value system directly influences many of the small decisions I make every day.

To realize how much of who I am is what I rely on when I am making decisions that impact all of my students.

But all of the reflection, all of the discussion, the time to think, is what we need to do this work right.  to not just pull out another lesson that will hopefully help our students when we haven’t done the work ourselves.

So to all of us who plan professional development.  To all of us who are on our own journey.  It is okay to start by looking at ourselves, in fact, it is necessary.  Start with yourself before you ask for a change in your students.

And plan for it, make time for it, value it, and expect it.  How can we possibly expect our students to grow under our care if we are not growing ourselves?  And I don’t mean in having more strategies to apply, but truly growing as a human being that understands why they do what they do.

So play by the same rules we set forth for all students; take the time to reflect on who you are, how you want to grow, how you need to grow and then set a goal.  Pursue your own change as you would that of your students.

Start with you before you start with them.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

1 thought on “The Missing Part of Great Professional Development”

  1. Pernille, the equity discussion your district has engaged in this year sounds wonderful. Everything we do in the classroom is impacted by who we are as teachers and it would be nice to take some time to think about that, time to consider and set goals for growth. Thanks for the very timely reminder…I’ll need to do this on my own because I think I do need that compass reset.

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