Julie A. Cunningham

Academic Advisor

On Professional Responsibility

306205_9376I am done procrastinating, and will now attack my peer review essay in the presence of all the interwebs. The topic? “How might you contribute to your own professional development and that of your colleagues?” paired with “What are the influences and people that played a part in your decision to become a teacher?”

You know, this subject of personal learning networks is one that is near and dear to my heart. I love learning. I love learning in community. I love sharing ideas. Collaborating. Networking. Sharing. These things are life giving and energizing to me.

Which is why I just don’t understand the negativity and animosity many educators exhibit towards any kind of non-district sponsored, required, or credited professional development opportunity. I really don’t understand it. Several years ago, I sat in a high level meeting where the discussion centered around the new teacher evaluation system, and quickly degenerated into how to support teachers through professional development. Now, we are not talking about cutting edge training here…. we are talking about basic things like how to use a grading system or email. I foolishly spoke up and asked “Why would we even provide that kind of training? Aren’t teachers professionals who should be responsible for staying current with tools of the trade? Shouldn’t this be their responsibility?” Ah, naive Julie. I continued on and mentioned that in industry no one is trained in using email or tools- as professionals they are expected to either know how to use them or to seek out extra help to get current. The reply I received from one individual was , “Julie, if everyone thought like you did, I would be out of a job.”

I think this is my underlying frustration with the original question. I do know how to contribute to my own professional development. I take time out of my busy life to learn, grow, and network. I attend virtual conferences. I attend live conferences, often on my own dime. I read books. I read blogs. I discuss ideas on Twitter. I take online courses. I organize local tweetups. Beyond that, I invite colleagues to join me. I have two who are joining me in the Blended Learning MOOC that starts in a few weeks (you are invited too!). I’m hosting a book night in November to discuss The Self-Directed Learning Handbook.

I don’t expect everyone to do those things. We all learn in different ways, and professional development is a personal thing. You have the opportunity to craft your own education.  Pick what works for you, but not picking isn’t a choice- especially if you are in the classroom teaching one of my kids. As a parent, I expect you to be current. If you are not, you should expect me to remove my child from your class…. since I know there is no way your administrator can fire you for such a “minor” thing.  And as your enrollment numbers drop, your building should start looking inward instead of blaming outward circumstances.

The bottom line is that I am a professional and should be held responsible for staying current in my field. So are you.

The biggest contribution I can make is to own my professional development and to expect my colleagues to own theirs. Of course, I can share heaps and heaps of ideas. But if the underlying assumption of personal responsibility for learning is not there, all the opportunities in the world cannot change the outcome. Sound familiar?

Well, that was a lovely little rant. Ahem. Don’t think I’ll be able to use that for my essay response. However, I have worked through why the question was bothering me so much and can now approach it like a professional. A procrastinating professional, but a professional nonetheless.

(Rather than write an essay, I elected to create a Powerpoint presentation. My preference is writing, but since my ESL peers are the audience for this piece I elected to make it more visual and less wordy.)

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