Saturday, May 26, 2012

Where's My Professional Development?

Like it or not, in an era of never-ending educational budget cuts, the burden of continued professional development now falls squarely on the shoulders of teachers. Formalized, district-sponsored professional development opportunities within the school day and school year are few and far between; yet, the flood of revisions, reforms, and rollouts of new curricula and new initiatives continues at a dizzying pace. Try to keep up with the wave or be swamped by it—an unfair choice either way.
Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart

The river flow of funds has slowed to a trickle in the drought-stricken desert of district- and school-level professional development—the oases spread further and further apart, the treks between more lonely and arduous. "When will we receive professional development on this?" and "When will we have time to talk about this?" become luxurious questions in a landscape of austerity. Our hero's journey becomes more perilous; the desire to give up and quit is often alluring.

To persist (and survive), we must look for new sources of professional sustenance and take ownership for our own growth. In a rapidly-evolving digital realm, there are endless opportunities to connect with others—we only need actively seek them out. Twitter is a vast oasis of companions and gurus eager to share their knowledge and wisdom: NASA, NOAA, NSTA, ISTE, ASCD, and countless other organizations and individuals serve up a wealth of information and resources via the Twitter stream to quench our professional thirst. Google Reader and Google+ offer an endless buffet of subscriptions to some of the most engaging and intriguing minds on the planet; again, we must seek this nourishment ourselves, but once found our appetite is sated.

In the maelstrom of shifting educational paradigms and draconian budget cuts, it is easy to become lost and disillusioned. As stewards of our children's education, the burden of assuming our own professional development seems overwhelming and unjust to us. But waiting for a miraculous rescue is a fatal mistake; clinging to a halcyon past is a fool's errand. We must assume our own journey, one step at a time, and continue seeking out the professional oases…

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