3 Ways to Jump Start Your Professional Development

We’ve all rocked up to a professional development session doubting it would deliver what we needed. But with the right mindset you can get the most out of PD no matter the context. 

Get your head back in the game with these top tips and before you know it, you’ll feel that exhilarating passion for lifelong learning once again!

1 Find Your Purpose
Learn how to set your intention, seek out opportunities, and have your say (PLUS terrific tips for leadership on how to take the lead, take stock, and effect change).

2 Get Proactive 
Learn how to map your success, reflect and review, and find your tribe.

3 Apply New Learnings
Learn why experimenting with your learnings sends the right message to students and builds your own confidence.

Find Your Purpose

Without purpose, there’s no motivation. And with no motivation, the daily grind will inevitably feel like Groundhog Day. And nobody wants that!

As educators, the expectation is always to improve and grow. So, even if we may not have a choice over the kind of PD we’re given or how it’s delivered, we do have a choice over what we do with it. 

Shifting our mindset from powerlessness to focusing on what we can control undoubtedly makes all the difference. 

To find YOUR purpose, consider the following points.

Set Your Intention
Setting a specific intention helps set the tone for what you want to get out of any situation and gives you a greater chance of getting what you want. 

“I intend to engage with new people who have different perspectives so I can build on the collaborative culture within my school.”

OR 

“I intend to keep an open mind that’s receptive to learning something I didn’t know before.”

Seek Opportunities
PD can provide a treasure trove of golden opportunities if you’re looking for them. And keeping an open mind means you’ll be in the right headspace to see the opportunities when they arise. 

You may well discover new approaches that give you the answer to something that’s been bugging you, you may even uncover an unexpected passion that’s been lying dormant, or you may pick up simple teaching hacks that have the power to transform your practice.

Have Your Say
By showing up and participating in PD (regardless of whether it’s mandatory or not) gives you the chance to have your say. Giving feedback to the people who make decisions on your future PD will give you a fighting chance of getting what you need for your growth and development. After all, if you’re not in the room you don’t really have the right to complain!

Leadership
Take the Lead
For those in a leadership role it’s vital you participate in the PD too. Showing up shows your staff you value it. And showing up shows them they have your support. 

Take Stock
PD is also the perfect setting for school leaders to take stock of staff; how your teachers interact, engage, perform, and collaborate, and what they value are key cornerstones of a successful school.

You may like to explore ways to:

• improve internal communications and relationships;
• celebrate and leverage your staff members’ strengths;
• support and encourage your staff members’ growth;
• better understand your staff members’ values to get their buy-in for change;
• create a vision for your school and the wider community.

Effect Change
All key stakeholders must be represented for change to be effective. So if you see that your people are not thriving as a result of the PD they’re offered, rewind and have the necessary conversations to find out why. 

Yes, there may be bigger picture strategic goals that come from gap analysis and the like, but what do your people really need? Once your staff get what they need, you’ll get the buy-in you need to realise your vision.

Be Proactive

Seeking out your own professional development opportunities is the number one way to avoid wishing you were elsewhere in that PD session and getting the most out of it. To keep your own PD fire burning, you need a plan to get you to where you want to go.

Map Your Success
Figuring out where you want to go is easier when you look at where you are. Start where you are by brainstorming your passions and strengths. Then look at where you want to go by brainstorming your goals. 

How do you eat an elephant? Well, not all at once that’s for sure! Achieving your goals is much more manageable when you break your goals down into bite-sized chunks. Start with short-term goals that you can achieve in 12 weeks and then look at long-term goals that you can achieve within the next year. 

Being strategic in accomplishing your goals is what makes lasting and impactful change.

Reflect & Review
Keeping yourself accountable is an essential factor that will keep you on track. You may like to schedule a self-check-in at the end of every term, or if you really want to fast-track your success you may like to do this more regularly. 

And if you need a helping hand to stay accountable, you could arrange a get together with another colleague to chat about what’s working and what’s not, share your experiments and reflections in a team meeting (that others may even like to try!), or reach out to your students for feedback.

Regardless of your approach, you use to keep you on track, notice your patterns and celebrate your progress!

Find Your Tribe 
Connecting with like-minded people is another great way to be proactive in your own learning journey and keep you motivated. Reach out to other colleagues who share your enthusiasm (or others who will ignite yours!), contact peers within your Community of Learning, research Professional Learning Networks (both in-person and remote groups), or seek out inspirational professionals to follow on LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.  

Engaging in stimulating conversations can take your thinking in new directions and give you greater purpose and meaning to your PD journey. 

And remember, PD doesn’t just come in the form of meetings or workshops. Take advantage of the raft of asynchronous resources available online in the form of blogs, courses, podcasts, and webinars. The internet is your educational oyster!

Apply New Learning

Too often we get all excited about learning something new, only to forget about it a week later. Applying your new learning from PD is crucial when it comes to making lasting change.

Don’t delay! As soon as you have the chance, take your new discoveries to the testing lab, aka; the classroom. After all, students are always keen to try something new! 

Even if your new learning is not something you’re entirely confident with just yet, it’s worth experimenting with to find out if it really works. If it doesn’t, discard it and move on. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Modeling this ‘give it a go’ approach with your students sends a powerful message. It encourages them to expand their horizons and gives them permission to experiment with new ideas without the fear of making mistakes.

Professional Development Resources

Ōtākaro Kōrero Podcast, hosted by the Across School Leads of a Christchurch-based Kāhui Ako covering cultural capability, wellbeing and other educational themes

Teaching Today Podcast from the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand

Education | Google Blog – The official source for information about Google’s education-related efforts

Microsoft Education Blog – News that inspires, informs and supports learning.

Kickstart Your Personalised PD

Seize the day and fast track your PD goals with UTB’s tailor made learning resources:

 Learn On Demand Online Courses offers pre-recorded tech training modules to help you master tech tools in the classroom.

 Using Technology Better Blog is a resource for insightful articles, free tech tools, tips and tricks to make your life easier.

 Outclassed Podcast deep dives into pedagogy and ed tech trends with UTB’s Head Honcho, Mike Reading.

 LearnBytes Podcast offers bite-sized tips for increasing energy, efficiency, organisation, and productivity, with UTB and special guests.

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