Diving into the Professional Conversation

I'm pleased to introduce former student, now teacher and co-author of Transparent Teaching of Adolescents, Stacey Bruton of Tampa, FL as my guest-blogger this week! 

How many times have you been told as educators to stay in the professional conversation? Your education courses might have mentioned it.  Or maybe you’ve never been told, to but you’ve seen it on your yearly evaluation!  Like most things “education”, we’re told what to do (thank you), but not so much how to do it or why.  

Staying in the professional conversation has really helped me maintain my enthusiasm and sense of connection with my colleagues.  In fact, it’s probably why I’m still in this teaching game! 

Getting started isn’t hard, but depending on how deep you want to go, consider:

Joining your content area’s professional organization.  This is a good one for beginners, who want to be in the pool, but want to stay in the shallow end! It's more "spectator". Usually, there is a small, annual membership fee. But, it is totally worth it. Professional organizations typically provide blogs, newsletters, conferences and magazines. The great thing about this option is that it’s content area-specific, so you won’t have to filter through other areas.

I went to a Florida Council Teachers of English conference, having no idea what to expect other than a keynote speech from Kylene Beers, author of When Kids Can’t Read. A few workshops later, after learning how to incorporate reader-writer journals from Linda Reif (Seeking Diversity), how to teach creative writing using Taco Bell sauce packets, and how to use picture books to teach literature circles, I was excited about teaching in the upcoming year.  That excitement is one of the most powerful benefits of the conversation. (Plus, the experience gave me stuff to put in my naked, first-year teacher classroom!)  

Finding an online teacher community. If you want to give your opinion, but you're not quite ready to go off the high dive, there are communities on Facebook, Twitter and all around the web. One I’ve found very helpful is ProTeacher Community. There are discussion boards divided up by grade level, new teacher forums, substitute teacher help, bulletin board ideas and a general HELP! section no matter the dilemma. I went to the middle school boards for help with classroom management, tips on whole group novels, and how to successfully implement independent reading in my classroom. This particular website is free and a great resource.

Another great place to look is Scholastic.com. They have ideas, resources and articles for all content areas and grade levels. I found really cool ice-breakers and discussion starters here. They also have a lot of great classroom tools, such as timers, their Book Wizard which helps students select books within their lexiles and interests and Daily Starters, for daily bellwork or warm ups. They also have an awesome Back to School section! The time is near!

One more thing that I really like on the Scholastic site is that they have an area where current teachers post featured articles. The last one I read was on simple ways to incorporate technology into the classroom and why it’s so important. These are great because the teachers are still in the classroom, so they share how their lesson or idea went and reflect on any changes they might make.

Get involved at your school or on a district level.  Here's where you can really dive into the deep end! The professional conversation is going to be different at every school, so sometimes, you have to be the one to find it or even start it. For example, at my school this past year, we had a book study. The books were paid for with Title One money and we got paid for meeting once a week to discuss the readings and how it applied to our school and our student population.  If you don’t have something like this at your school, get it started! Talk to your principal, request funds from your parent organization or School Advisory Committee. Sometimes the money is there, but you just have to find it. Sometimes, districts will offer a book study which is a great way to meet teachers from other schools and find out what challenges they are facing and what is working for them. That’s where the conversation provides you with practical, tried-and-tested advice.

If a book study is not your cup of tea, you can stay in the professional conversation asking around to see where you can help at the district level. There, your finger can be on the pulse of the conversation.  What does your district need? Teachers to help write the new exams?  Curriculum review?  Textbook adoption? This step not only helps you stay in the conversation, but it can help with inservice points for certification renewals and on annual evaluations. In my district, we have an entire domain dedicated to knowing the research, implementing it into the classroom, and how we stay in the professional conversation.

Staying in the professional conversation doesn’t mean that you literally have to discuss education.  It means knowing what’s going on in education, and how what’s going on will impact you and your students.   Staying in and part of our professional conversation can be as big or as little as you’re comfortable with. Whether it’s reading an article or two a week or joining a book study, go where you want to grow. 

What do you think? In what ways have you stayed in the conversation? Blogging is another great way to participate! So, comment away, my fellow educators! Stick your toe in...the water's fine. = )


1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic guest blog! Thank you, Stacey, for the great ideas on ways to stay informed. The professional conversation is such a vague phrase that it is not always easy to make sure you're doing it. Ok, so for newbies, it's rarely easy. Your ideas for how to do so are spot on and helpful, but the resources you recommended are helpful period, professional conversation or not.