By Hadeel Al Kamli
"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn" As teachers, professional development is an essential and non-negotiable element of our careers. Whether it is mandatory or teacher-chosen, professional development is imperative. Its need is not confined to keep your knowledge and skills up to date; it also fuels your passion and enthusiasm. While some teachers pursue professional development to accumulate certificates, thinking they are enhancing their careers, they end up with lengthy CVs with no real development.
Although professional development intends to help you improve your teaching skills and equip you with the best applications, it is evident, from experience, that the outcome might be frustrating for various reasons (e.g., Your presenter may lack engagement or clarity. The ideas and suggestions might be inapplicable or irrelevant. The content may be too complicated to be comprehended, too much to be digested, or simply too boring. You might be tired, preoccupied, or you might be forced to attend!) Regardless, the way you approach such opportunities can cost you a great learning opportunity. Not to mention, we must set an example for our students since we insist that they take responsibility for their own learning.
I will share some tips that have helped me get the most out of the professional development opportunities throughout my career:
- Be prepared; I do not mean simply bringing your coffee, notebook, and pens. I rather intend that you must be mentally prepared. Try to have a positive and open mindset for the new experience you are about to have.
- Be present; attending a session physically does not mean that you are actually present. Make sure to be truly present through constant and active participation in activities and discussions. Moreover, take notes and ask questions. This way, you stay engaged, and you avoid boredom.
- Do your own research; you might need to do some research on the topic presented in the PD session for many reasons; this could be because the speaker was not successful in delivering the session, the material that was given is not sufficient, or you were not able to focus during the training session for some reason. Therefore, always take a photo of the references slide.
- Bring the right company; attending a PD session with a colleague who can relate to your situation and context can provoke the best post-training discussions. I suggest that you go over your notes, reflect on them, and develop ways to implement the knowledge you have gained in your classes together.
- Meet some more; expanding your professional network is never a bad idea. Meeting professionals who share the same interests is a goal in itself. You can exchange different experiences and perspectives. Moreover, new people can surely open channels for new opportunities.
- Create something new; this might be the best advice I could give you. Whatever the PD session's topic is, try to summarize it, reconstruct it, add to it, or create new content using it (for instance: infographics or animated videos). Furthermore, you may modify the training sessions to meet the needs of your school or department. Utilizing the new information will ensure a deeper understanding and more effective processing of the presented content.
In conclusion, professional development builds a strong foundation for you to stand on confidently. Actively pursuing professional growth is what distinguishes an outstanding teacher. You must refine your teaching skills to keep up with the fast pace of life today. Always remember that there is something new to learn every day; your enthusiasm and effort determine your gains.