For a busy teacher, continuing education can sometimes feel like just one more task to check off your long to-do list. It’s tempting to select whatever option is immediately available, new and trendy, or the easiest fit for your schedule. Unfortunately, this can lead to spending precious time on continuing education that is not actually helpful personally. Luckily, continuing education can be very helpful once you determine the type of education that will be most useful for you.
It can help to develop a list of areas you would personally like to develop as teachers before looking for professional development opportunities. Here are three things to consider while making that list:
- Your Daily Struggles
What are the issues that come up regularly for you as a teacher? Knowing these can be helpful for selecting continuing education opportunities. Once you have identified your consistent struggles, you can look for continuing education courses that fit those needs. Maybe you often struggle because your students seem bored – a class on techniques for active learning could be useful. If you aren’t sure how to adjust your teaching for the needs of students who don’t speak your language, a course about teaching second language learners might be just the thing. Or if you have more homework to grade than time to grade it, a course on ways to simplify homework or grading could help. The possibilities are endless!
- Your Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
What are your strengths and weaknesses as an individual? These have an impact on your teaching, and can provide ideas for continuing education topics to consider. For example, someone who struggles with social anxiety, like myself, may have difficulty being confident and comfortable giving lectures in front of the class, and might benefit from continuing education focusing on improving speaking ability or on techniques like the flipped classroom that minimize classroom lectures and focus on more engaging strategies.
- The Feedback of Others
What feedback do you get on a regular basis? It can be dangerous as a teacher to take every piece of feedback you receive to heart, since some feedback is misguided or inaccurate. However, once you have been teaching for a while, you often start to hear themes come up in the feedback you receive from students, parents, and supervisors. if you choose to look humbly at the feedback you have received and consider these themes, you may see some blind spots you had not recognized before. Talking with a trusted supervisor or coworker to get suggestions for areas where you could improve as a teacher could generate ideas as well.
Creating a list like this might seem like a lot of work. In the long run, though, it saves you time by helping you find true opportunities to develop as a teacher, while poorly selected continuing education will take up your time without providing that development. The time you take to identify your needs can pay big dividends in professional growth and job satisfaction.