Taking control of my professional learning (a term new to me in 2008) was – and continues to be – simply the best thing I could have done for my career. It opened new avenues of learning, new contacts and networks of teachers and professional colleagues, and it led me to all sorts of activities, including the work I do now with schools, with governments, edtechs and even my job now as Head of Education at NetSupport.
In this post, I’ll outline some of the approaches I have taken so that you can explore and consider following them too. Fair warning, some aren’t for the faint of heart and, if like me, you suffer a bit from imposter syndrome, just remember this: you learn and develop more whilst outside your comfort zone than within it!
Get on Twitter!
The single most important and helpful way to connect with others is to get yourself onto and using what is now commonly known as ‘EduTwitter’. It’s not the same place it was when I joined as an educator, for sure, but it still remains the biggest and best staffroom in the world. If you’re looking for a place to get started, why not check out our periodic table of Primary educators to follow on Twitter.
Start a blog or a podcast, or both!
Reflecting upon your practice, initiatives, innovations or resources is something that always helps frame your thinking about the work that you do as a teacher. Sure, you might face some criticism, but that can help to temper your resolve, give you ideas for tweaks and improvements and can lead to all sorts of further opportunities. I have written a number of posts over on my ICT Evangelist site previously about taking up blogging; however, this post on blogging for reflective practice will give you a few pointers on how to go about it.
There has never been a better time to dip into some professional reading than now. There have never been so many fresh education books, often written by those at the chalkface, sharing ideas and best-practice. The topical areas are huge and well saturated, so whatever it is you’re looking for, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your reading needs. If you’re looking for a ‘starter for ten’ then my periodic tables of books to read will surely whet your appetite!
Organise a TeachMeet!
Something I did, which at the outset was a vehicle to help me gain confidence at speaking publicly to peers, was to organise a TeachMeet.
With only a handful of teachers turning up for the first one (and more than 300 coming to the latter ones I organised at the time in my school!), organising a TeachMeet gives you the opportunity to curate and create the types of presentations you want to hear. It could be a subject-specific TeachMeet, one for a specific Key Stage or with a focus on something such as innovation, edtech, creativity and so on. You decide! And having now organised, spoken at or been involved in more than 200 TeachMeets, I can confidently say, they are worth the effort, whatever the level of involvement you choose.
If you’re looking to set up your own TeachMeet, then why not have a look at this little guide or even this bigger guide I wrote some time ago to help you get set up. Alternatively, it doesn’t even need to be a front facing, ‘open to everyone’ TeachMeet – you could just organise one for colleagues in your own school, department or faculty. If you’d like to see some of the TeachMeets I organised back more than a decade ago when I worked at Clevedon School, please do check out the sessions on the YouTube channel I created featuring presentations from many fantastic educators.
The final piece in the jigsaw puzzle really does bring us right back to the beginning. It’s you! The most important part in all of this is the action you take following reading this post. Every journey starts with a single step. Sometimes you can procrastinate and make a list and add an entry to that list titled ‘make a list’ or you get the map out to decide your destination… My best advice to you is to act. Pick one of the things shared here and do it. Make that leap. Yes, you might feel uncomfortable. Yes, you might join Twitter and say hi and nobody responds. Well… I’m @ICTEvangelist and we’re @NetSupportGroup – tag us in your tweet and, before you know it, we’ll help connect you with other like-minded teachers. The most important thing you can do now, is act. Whichever route you take, I look forward to seeing where your journey takes you.