Carol Chanter, Ed.D., Senior Vice President for Professional Learning Services at Scholastic, outlines why professional learning is critical for educators now and year-round, with tips for discovering new sources of professional inspiration.
Your world has most likely been turned upside down. If you are an educator, not only are you being asked to provide instruction virtually, but simultaneously you may be teaching your own children, making sure your friends and family have food and supplies, and keeping your own household a float. You are carrying a heavy load.
The health and safety of you, your loved ones, and your students are priority—that will never change.
We understand that your own professional learning may be the last thing on your mind. But as you continue to support student academic and social-emotional development during school closures, we encourage you not to lose sight of yourself and your own growth as an educator. This matters not only for you, but also for your students and school community as you collectively look ahead to mitigating learning loss during the summer and returning to the classroom. Yes, one day, this will happen.
Here are four reasons why you should foster your own learning now, and throughout the year:
1. Learning renews the brain and recharges your energy
Learning something can increase dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is known as the feel-good neurotransmitter. The right balance of Dopamine is essential for both physical and mental well-being. We often think of re-energizing as resting or relaxing, but sometimes to best way to re-energize is to throw yourself into learning something new.
2. Learning provides opportunity for socialization
You need socialization now more than ever and learning is a social act. The benefits of social interactions are similar to those of physical exercise. Learning with others helps to boost your mood, reduce depression, and sharpen the mind. Today, with so many social media learning options, you don’t have to go out to participate in a learning network. Social networking is also a great way to make new connections with colleagues around the world and build relationships.
3. Learning fights boredom
Following the same daily schedule can quickly become boring and impact motivation. This is even truer during times of isolation, but learning something new breaks that cycle. Learning new ideas and skills raises your level of inquiry, and inquiry expands your mind. As you gain new knowledge, you become more aware of how you connect and contribute to the world, and that is not boring!
4. Learning makes you better at your craft
Learning and practicing skills actually increases the myelinization of neurons in your brain. This means you will be able to respond more quickly to student needs. Your teaching moves will become more automatic. More of your brain will be freed up to notice student behaviors and respond quickly to student needs. Create time for your own learning and your students will achieve at higher levels than ever before.
So, what are some quick, easy ways to get your learning going?
- Try a new social network: These digital networks will help you feel connected and fill that important need for socialization. Try #virtualschool on Twitter, or consider joining the Educator Temporary School Closure for Online LearningFacebook group. On Instagram, browse #virtualteaching and #virtualteacher.
And of course, don't forget YouTube, but do it with purpose. Think of a topic you have been meaning to learn more about such as literature circles, academic discourse, project based learning, cooperative learning, supporting ELs, virtual teaching etc. Put it in the YouTube search and you are off and running with new learning opportunities.
- Read a professional book: Professional books are a great way to keep you learning and you can read as much or a little as you want. You may already have a book at home by a favorite author or educator that you have been meaning to read. But if not, Scholastic has some exciting titles I can recommend: Cultivating Genius by Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, The Ultimate Read-Aloud Resource, 2nd Edition by Lester L. Laminack, and Game Changer! Book Access for All Kids by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp.
- Read a blog or start one of your own. Share your first-hand experiences and lessons learned with your friends and colleagues to enhance their learning. To get started, check out these blogs on various aspects of online learning posted on Desire2Learn at https://www.d2l.com/blog/category/online-learning.
These ideas will get you started, but you will soon discover many of your own best learning strategies and resources. Remember too, if you feel that you just don't have the time or bandwidth, start small. Set a timer and learn deliberately for ten minutes. Practice this twice or three times a day and your weeks will fly by.
For additional professional learning resources, watch free recorded webinars featuring best practices from leading authors, literacy experts, and educators, here.
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