I could sum up in three ways how teachers can grow in their craft: experience, self-reflection, and having a professional development plan. I will discuss each of the three.
As teachers, we learn a lot in college related to education and how to be teachers, but I think we learn best and the most by experiencing teaching ourselves. We learn a lot during student teaching while we are working on our degrees, or via unconventional methods (like I am) with working as a long term substitute teacher who does not yet have a teaching degree or certification. Teachers who graduate with degrees in teaching go on to learn more things that make them better teachers after college. Everyone always says that experience is the best teacher. In the case of becoming a teacher, it really does ring true. You learn as you go, and while you are doing so, you are growing in your craft. You are learning what is working and what is not. You learn your own strengths and weaknesses as an educator. You learn from other teachers. You even learn from your students themselves.
While experience makes the best teacher, self-reflection is what makes us grow and improve as we refine our craft. In the 2000 article “Getting into the Habit of Reflection,” Costa & Kallick state that “the act of reflection, particularly with a group of teaching colleagues, provides an opportunity for:
- amplifying the meaning of one’s work through the insight of others;
- applying meaning beyond the situation in which it was learned;
- making a commitment to modifications, plans, experimentation; and
- documenting learning and providing a rich base of shared knowledge.”
When we self-reflect, we think about our experiences. We think about our teaching styles and determine what areas we need to improve on, because we can always improve ourselves as teachers. Also, it is important for teachers to be able to self-reflect in addition to receiving external reflection from others through peer reviews and observations. Even though we teach the students in our own classrooms, teaching should be a collaborative team effort. If one teacher notices something that day in his/her class and reflects on it with others, other teachers can learn from this too. It is great for teachers who teach the same grade, or same subject to get together regularly and share their ideas or reflections on lessons they did. “To be reflective means to mentally wander through where you have been and to try to make some sense of it,” (Costa & Kallick, 2000). The idea is that we should be able to look back and self-reflect all while looking forward so that we can apply what we know to what we need to do in future situations. In the article titled, “Fostering Reflection”, Danielson (2009) writes that our co-workers can be good mentors because “they usually have the ability to listen analytically—focusing on key information that helps clarify what needs to be explored—and they have expanded repertoires of options.” High Leverage Practice #19 states that we should be analyzing instruction for the purpose of improving it. This all comes down to our self-reflection and continuous growth in refining our craft as educators.
Professional development is important to educators because it allows for them to expand their knowledge and skills throughout the years. They do this by continually learning new things through workshops, conferences, activities, seminars, etc. Sometimes workshops can be a waste of time and money, but often these workshops “focused on the implementation of research-based instructional practices, involved active-learning experiences for participants, and provided teachers with opportunities to adapt the practices to their unique classroom situations,” (Guskey & Yoon, 2009). In order for teachers to continue to refine their craft each year, Desimone (2009) states that professional development that is effective includes the following:
- content focus- focusing on subject matter content and how students learn that content.
- active learning- being actively involved such as observing and receiving feedback, etc.
- coherence- professional development activities should be consistent with other important knowledge and beliefs
- duration- 20+ hours per semester of professional development activities.
- collective participation- Teachers of same grades or subjects should do professional development together so that they can collaborate within their community.
When teachers want to be the best teachers that they can be so that they make a difference in their students lives, they have to continually evolve and refine their craft. It has to be a personal thing (self-reflect and growth) as well as a community thing (peer review and collaboration). We have to help each other be better teachers, because after all, it does take a village to raise a child.
Costa, A. L., & Kallick, B. (2000). Getting into the Habit of Reflection. Educational Leadership, 57(7), 60-62.
Danielson, L. M. (2009). Fostering reflection. Educational leadership, 66(5), 1-5. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/feb09/vol66/num05/Fostering-Reflection.aspx
Desimone, L. M. (2011). A primer on effective professional development. Phi delta kappan, 92(6), 68-71. Retrieved from http://www.gcisd-k12.org/cms/lib/TX01000829/Centricity/Domain/78/A_Primer_on_Effective_Professional_Development.pdf
Guskey, T. R., & Yoon, K. S. (2009). What works in professional development. Phi Delta Kappan, 90(7), 495-500. Retrieved from http://outlier.uchicago.edu/computerscience/OS4CS/landscapestudy/resources/Guskey-and-Yoon-2009.pdf