?10 Ways to Drive Your Own Development

?All teachers want to grow, but making that happen effectively isn’t always easy. You may be at a school where you receive regular development, coaching and feedback or you may be at a school where you receive very little training and the only feedback may be one or two official observations over the course of the year. No matter the situation at your school, you can do a lot to take control of your own development and ensure you grow as much as possible. Here are 10 strategies:
Speak up for yourself. Sometimes we assume our leaders are responsible for developing us and that they know what we need, so we default to waiting for them to initiate things. While this can sometimes work out, don’t hesitate to speak up early. You might ask for a meeting to talk about areas you want to focus on for the year or if you’re new to a school you might start more generally by asking what you can expect in terms of training and observations for the year and then sharing your hopes for your growth and development. Expecting your leaders to have all the answers can lead to resentment if they don’t meet your expectations so jump in and get things started.
Make specific requests. If you have certain areas you’d like to grow in, ask for resources and feedback for those specific things. Especially if you’re in a situation where your coach or evaluator has many teachers they’re working with and are strapped for time, getting specific guidance on how to support you may be much appreciated as it can make your work together that much more efficient. If they have 30 teachers on their load and you’re the only person who has made a specific request, it’s much easier for them to remember and prioritize your request.
Be ready to compromise. You might speak up and make specific requests, and your evaluator may have different ideas for you. Especially if you’re a new teacher or one who has struggled in the classroom, your coach’s focus areas are probably important to prioritize. At the same time, you need to feel motivated and empowered to move forward, so ask if you can create a plan that incorporates both of your areas into your development.
Set some goals. Incorporating ‘more differentiation’ or ‘increasing student engagement’ can feel huge and vague. If you have similarly vague focus areas, articulate some specific short- and long-term goals to reach in order to make your work more productive and purposeful.
Enlist your peers. There are likely other teachers on your campus who are great at what you want to work on. If you ask a peer to observe and give you feedback or solicit their help with a lesson plan, they’ll most likely be flattered and more than willing to help.
Get on-line. There is a TON of free professional development to be found on-line. Educators abound on Twitter and there are many great twitter chats you can participate in. Here’s how to get started if you haven’t participated in one before. You can also search for teachers or organizations that provide free resources for download or through their blog. Edutopia, for example, is an amazing resource for educational blogs on a variety of topics and a quick search can point you to the best teacher blogs for your particular content area. 
Try video. Whatever you’re working on, video portions of your lesson to watch and reflect on later. You can do this on your own or with a colleague or coach. Check out this post on using video effectively for ideas.
Do the legwork. The best chance to get the help you want is to do some of the legwork yourself. If you want to go to a conference, but don’t know any of the details, you’re unlikely to get an easy ‘yes.’ But if you find a conference that’s within your school’s budget, work out all the details for arranging it, and determine what you’ll learn and how you’ll incorporate it, it’s much easier for your manager to say yes.
Don’t forget professionalism. Being an excellent team member and colleague is just as important to the success of a school as being a strong instructor. Try reaching out to your grade level chair or manager and asking them what you can do to contribute fully or asking them for feedback after a meeting.
Be open and grateful. Finally, if you’re making requests for feedback and initiating conversations about how you can improve, make sure that you’re open to hearing that feedback and that you share your appreciation for it. If people give you feedback and you disagree or respond negatively, it makes it hard for people to be comfortable giving you feedback in the future. Being humble enough to take feedback constructively is key to growing as a teacher and professional. Click here for more on humility.
We all want to be the best teachers we can be. No matter how your school structures training and feedback, take charge of your development by speaking up for yourself and humbly receiving the feedback you need. Make this the #bestyearever!

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