Many of you may know that one of my personal passions is cooking. I learned to cook basic things when I was in elementary school. When I was in 4-H I had multiple county fair champions, and sent a few things to the State Fair. In our house now I do most of the cooking because it’s something I enjoy doing. Over the years I have developed my “favorite” meals that I have found out there and adjusted to suit my tastes, or the tastes of my family. Last fall however, I noticed that I had a series of 10-12 things that we were just cycling through. It was hard to choose anything to cook because I was getting bored with the options I had. I needed something new. Then, I happened to be listening to an interview of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, the author of The Food Lab, and I knew I had to get his cookbook. The guy was a self-described science nerd who became a chef and uses the scientific method to perfect his recipes – sign me up!
The book is almost 1000 pages, includes awesome step by step pictures and instructions for hundreds of recipes, along with scientific descriptions of what happens during the cooking process, explanations of experiments to find the best option in preparing certain dishes, and suggestions for home cooks to be able to carry out techniques that normally are reserved for professional kitchens. In the several months that I have had the book, we have upgraded our meals in the Behrman household. The only complaint? I think I need to run a few extra miles every week with the food we’ve been eating (it’s been hard not to have a second serving with most of these meals!).
Now, some of you may be wondering what this has with a PLN, but I promise, I’m going to try to make it connect. When you think about what you need to grow as an educator, what comes to mind? Jot down the top 3 things that you think of. Really… Take a moment to jot down those top 3. This post will still be here when you get it done.
Now, if I were to poll you, there would be a massive variety of choices that would make it impossible for any administrator to come up with a school PD plan that would meet the needs of all of you. Instead, here’s what I suggest– think about your passions, your areas of continued growth, and get learning! You could talk to your colleagues about things you’re interested in. There are tons of experts within your building and throughout your district. If you’re looking for someone to help you in a specific area, ask around. Maybe your administrator can point you in the right direction. By sharing our knowledge and sharing our curiosities, we can become an environment that encourages lifelong learning.
You know when you find something exciting! You know when you have an idea that you just have to try out! Just like I became excited about new cooking with The Food Lab cookbook, you can find your own ways to grow as an educator, and hopefully the rest of this post will help with that!
A couple weeks ago I shared links to some education hashtags for Twitter (click here to go back to that post). See if there are any that tie to your 3 things you jotted down earlier – want to learn more about standards based learning? #SblChat might be perfect for you! Interested in educational technology? Check out #edtech! For things specific to your grade level, you might want to check out #5thchat (5th grade chat) or #6thchat (6th grade chat). If Twitter isn’t your thing, you might try a search on Pinterest (yes, even I have an account!). You can also search Facebook, and often you can find great videos on YouTube that may help you learn.
If you aren’t quite sure what you want to learn about, then you might have to take some other steps to find a path – you could ask your students what you should learn next. Find out what interests them, what learning methods work for them, or what they’d be excited to do. You could also check the blogosphere. You’ve heard me reference blogs in the past – blogs like Edutopia, A.J. Juliani, Cult of Pedagogy, and The Cornerstone for Teachers are a few that I like. Most of the blogs I have found have been through links from blogs I already followed. If you find a blog you like, subscribe, or use Feedly as a single place to keep track of them all!
I know that some of you may be thinking that it’s the end of the year and you don’t want to mix anything up. Think about it though – wouldn’t it be better to try something totally new with a group of students you already know, as opposed to trying it with a new group of students you don’t know yet? Isn’t it easier to make adjustments to your teaching when one of the variables – students – is a known quantity? Don’t put the pressure of learning something new on your future self! There is no better time to try something new than right now!
Finally, one suggestion that might make some of us a little uncomfortable – seek out people with beliefs that might be different than you. Being brave enough to learn from those who challenge you can be one key to your continued growth. Find someone who challenges you and talk with them with the purpose of understanding their thinking, not getting it to line up with yours – you might learn from them, and they might learn from you.
What things have you learned through your professional learning network? Share with us in the comments below! We’d love to hear about it!