How You Can Develop Yourself Professionally as a Teacher

Recr_ad_roland_blogRoland Wang is in his third year of teaching environmental science at YES Prep West. Roland grew up in Hong Kong before moving to the U.S. for college. He graduated from Cornell University (B.Sc.) in 2009 and University of Wisconsin-Madison (M.Sc.) in 2012. Prior to YES Prep, Roland served two years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA corps member in Oregon and transitioned into teaching through Teach For America in the Houston corps (’15). Connect with Roland via LinkedIn.

Whether you’re in your first year or tenth year in the classroom, you will probably agree that teaching is a highly dynamic profession. Every year, there is a new educational standard or some breakthrough in research on how students learn. And yet, it’s easy to become oblivious to such changes while you’re in the classroom.

While Deans of Instruction, mentors, and coaches are an excellent resource for your professional development, there is a plethora of opportunities and resources outside your school and on the web where you can learn about new teaching techniques and methods to help you become an effective teacher. Below are some that I’ve used or have sought out during the past three years:

Join a Professional Organization

In teaching, there are a variety of organizations and associations specific to a subject area. Some examples include the National Education Association (NEA), National Science Teacher Association (NSTA), the National Council of Teacher of English (NCTE), and the American Mathematical Society (AMS). Joining an organization generally requires an annual membership, but the benefits include the opportunity to network with other educators as well as engage in workshops and conference where teachers can remain informed about changes in their field.

Participate in Conferences, Workshops, and Fellowships

One of the best aspects of the job is the variety of interesting and engaging conferences, workshops, and fellowships that are available outside of your campus. As an added incentive, many are free and/or will pay you a stipend for participating. Professional organizations, such as ones listed above, include their own workshops and conferences. For example, two years ago, I attended a two-day workshop offered by Rice University to brainstorm how AP Environmental Science teachers can develop and use inquiry-based learning in their classroom. I received some materials to use in my classroom and a $300 stipend. Currently, I’m participating in the two-year long, Stanford Hollyhock Fellowship with three of my colleagues at West. Alexandra Hood, Cheikh Beye, and Travis Marshall.

Subscribe to Online Groups

There are numerous resources on the web that you can use to develop yourself professionally. Below are three websites that I visit frequently and subscribe to:

  • Edutopia: My go-to resource to learn about anything and everything about education, from project-based learning to topics on brain-based learning.
  • Teaching Channel: A website where teachers can watch videos of others in their classroom and share techniques to help students grow.
  • Mindshift: According to the website, “Mindshift explores the future of learning in all its dimensions….We look at how learning is evolving in the classroom and beyond.” Topics include teaching strategies and growth mindset, among others.

Keeping up with Literature

With the amount of work that we do daily, reading articles might be among the last things you consider. But given the dynamic aspect of our work, keeping up with the literature helps to ensure that your teaching techniques are up to date. In addition to the online groups listed above, other resources include academic journals, books, and periodicals (such as Education Week).

Looking Back and Reflect

If this is your first year teaching, you’re probably satisfied that you’ve made it this far, and you’re just looking forward to summer break. If you’re a veteran teacher, this year may just be another year come-and-gone. Once the break begins, it’s tempting to leave the past behind and forget about everything that has happened. But it is during the break where you should dedicate some time to reflect on what went well and one thing you’ll focus on improving for next year. Once the new academic year begins, I found it helpful to think about why I decided to become a teacher as an added motivational boost to kick off the year.

Final Note

As with any career, teaching is not static. While what you teach may not change, how you teach is always in flux. The resources outlined above is not a definitive list but I hope they will help act as a stepping stone for you to take ownership of your development. We empower our students in their own learning; let’s do the same for ourselves.

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