1. Personal Development and Professional Learning for Teachers – Introduction
Personal Development is not just for teachers. It’s for everyone. The current psychological move is towards an individual’s success areas and how to build on those for personal development in that area. “To Become Your Best Self, Study Your Successes,” titles for example the Harvard Business Review this article from May 2019. The authors stress how important it was to strive for the “Best Self”. They take their confidence from the findings of an earlier decade’s research, to which they point in that article, too. In short they recommend these steps in their order:
- one should start learning from positive feedback received to then,
- deepen the knowledge gained from the feedback by asking specific questions back and
- study the answers for example by starting journaling on growth to
- finally put the new insight about one’s strength areas into practise.
The idea of best-self development belongs to the branch of positive psychology. If you’d like to dig deeper you may do so in this article of an online library. There’s an abstract published regarding research on the impact of what they call “strength intervention”.
It’s found to be an effective tool to empower employers and so move the organization or company forward, as well. However, it’s not the only direction for personal development. Some people like to turn to improve as person with the execution of high ethical standards as found in the 10 commandments in the Old Testament. To learn more on why to take them into consideration, at all check this paragraph here.
Personal development and professional learning for teachers call for specification, though. That’s why let’s enter formal K-12 education now and get ideas on how teachers can grow.
2. Personal Development and Professional Learning for Teachers
Personal development and professional learning for teachers can happen when the challenge is embraced to become a lifelong learner. If teachers can adhere to that mindset they also ensure for professional development on-the-go. However, it’s not always easy for teachers to see the need to keep learning and growing themselves. Why is that? A teacher’s profession is all about helping students learn and grow. Their focus is rather on the other, not on the self – sometimes. However, it’s important to also look at oneself for any personal development for teachers to happen.
In this article (no SSL-encryption) teachers come along incredibly hands-on advices to keep developing professionally. The suggestions are based on findings within the community of teachers for English as Foreign Language from the late 80ies and early 90ies of the last century. Some of those ideas are highlighted here, mixed up with personal suggestions:
- know the subject you’re about to teach as thoroughly as possible;
- stay somewhat updated with scientific publications on learning;
- talk to your students, i.e. on longer breaks outside, be availabe for chats;
- know your context: how to create a syllabus, know where to find material or online resources, know how motivate or assess your students and so much more;
- try out new methods in the classroom to keep teaching and learning interesting;
- record yourself while teaching and self-assess afterwards;
- have others watch your teaching and provide you with feedback;
- ask your students for feedback like after a semester or at the end of the school year – this is good to do anonymously (although you might recognize the handwriting);
- work as professionally as you possibly can: enter the classroom well-prepared, correct diligently & timely and be sure to check this post;
- don’t lose the joy in teaching and don’t allow for being discouraged.
Personal development for teachers is closely connected to that joy preserved throughout all of professional life. Author of the above-mentioned post, Gerardo Valazza, states about teachers that “[t]hey should enjoy themselves when teaching, treat themselves to something nice when they achieve their aims, and take a well-deserved rest when they have the opportunity to do so”.
After all, a good time of rest keeps you productive in the long run. Long-term vision is useful in lots of professions. To ensure personal development and professional learning for teachers, burnout needs to be avoided by prevention for example with: sufficient sleep during the night, a day off every week, and sufficient vacation time over the year, which is not used for preparation or correction tasks. Oftentimes, increased competence goes along with increased happiness and productivity, which we’ll learn about now.
3. Productivity and Personal Development for Teachers
Productivity is about getting things done as well in quantity as in quality. If you want to become more productive ask yourself what it is that needs to be addressed first. Write a list with whatever comes to your mind. Brainstorm without limits. This procedure, by the way, does not just apply for teachers.
Then, focus on the 3-6 things that are your priority today. How do you know what is important, though? Have a second look at your list and mark about 10-15 needs. While doing that include those that have to do with a deadline. These are urgent task. You also want to include important but not urgent taks. What do I mean by that? These are middle- or long-term priorities.
Having decided for the 10-15 prevalent topics, you can put them either into an order or 3-6 of them on a list right for today. Go for it those next 5 work days. You’ve accomplished your work when you’re done with what’s marked on that list. You can go about such lists from day to day. Let go off one day, just to give yourself rest and recreation time. On the weekend before the next work week, you write a new list with the remaining topics of that list, which were not marked. Then, add new priorities on that new list, too.
As teacher, maybe you need to get a syllabus ready for the next school year. Such a task is not urgent at the dawn of summer vacation. However, vacation time is over all too soon. It’s good for the work-life balance to getting prepared without stress, which translates to urgency because of demanding deadlines. If you’d like to learn more about general tips on productivity you might like to learn more on resources in that post.
As for a teacher’s productivity, teachers often establish their own routines, which work well for them. Those routines have to do with
- filing incoming sheets & outgoing worksheets;
- scheduling tasks like assessments and their correction;
- planning and preparing lessons and tasks related with them;
- the work place: where am I most productive – at home, at school, outside;
- people, i.e. when do I need to respond emails, and when not to take up the phone;
- planning for personal development by participating in skill enhancement trainings.
How to do that more precisely leads us directly into the next topic, which is organizing yourself and your time.
4. Time Management & Self Management for Teachers
Personal development for teachers is not possible without planning ahead. Setting priorities are so useful for effective time management. That leads into self management and organizing skills. For teachers, there are some practical ideas on both of them:
- have a good filing system ready; it’s good for both immediate papers entering your work space just as with folders to put them into later; the same applies for any online documentation;
- plan much ahead of time – at least one school year, including private and professional appointments, deadlines or limitations on time (like skill enhancement trainings);
- use short breaks wisely – at school, you may copying or decluttering papers in those short breaks, whereas longer times off are better used for correcting a test and preparing a unit or lesson;
- organizing your work space such that you may actually work there – or said differently: clutterfree your table;
- limit office hours for phone calls by parents – decide for times that fit you well and are divers, like one in the morning and one in the evening; depending a bit on the restrictions of your school’s structure;
- set time apart for learning new things – otherwise you might end up not finding the time to professionally develop.
As for a more general view on time management, check this 50-min YouTube video training by a former American Express Europe executive. And here you are with a free self-study course on time management basics offered online by a German Institute of Technology.
5. Professional Learning for Teacher’s and how to Address Tensions
Illnesses, a continuously changing learning environment, unexpected circumstances, relational challenges – that’s much in a teacher’s day. These incidentes are closely connected to the professional development for teachers, as well. How you deal with these and other tensions in work life makes you grow or might get you discouraged. Personal development for teachers will improve if you’re able to find a mentor amongst your collegues.
An experienced teacher who is availabe and open to your questions and struggles is a goldmine. Sometimes, it’s a veteran teacher’s experience that helps you choose the right words in a response to parents. Another time, a mentor has got good advice on how to dealing with discipline issues in the classroom. They already have experience on how to create assessments and tests. They are familiar with resources, events, awards or contests, which are out there to recommend them to your students.
In short, we all face struggles with people of all kinds. It’s good to not solving them alone. And the young teacher and new professional is well off when he or she finds a mentor for the first year at school.
6. Work-Life Balance for Teachers
Your work life is not your life if you’re a teacher. Life is much more than just work. This is pretty similar with student life when you are in assessments season. Therefore, those tips may be useful for you, too even if you’re not studying anymore. And the work life has limitations because it’s not based on personal preferences more than often.
On the other hand, the work life is your life, indeed. You have some formation in the discipline of education already, you’ve got experience and – most of all – you’re at school all or half a day long. Then, prep and correction tasks fill your afternoons, evenings, and at times, nights. Day in, day out. How do personal development and work life come together? If you are a woman in the teaching job you may want to check a useful website for professional women here. It does not address specific concerns in the field of education.
Professional learning for teachers requires first of all discipline. It’s a sense to know when to work and when not to work at home. I’d recommend to taking at least one day off per week. Otherwise, work always surrounds you, and if you don’t set inner limits there’s just no end to organizing files, preparing lessons, optimizing new material, doing research or a skill enhancement. For more general resources, including on work-life balance go here.
Secondly, choose for a distraction. A hobby, sports, meeting with friends. Whatever it is that helps you disconnect from the challenges at school, keep that doing. You might think you don’t have the time for such luxury? Well, you can try it out if with a balanced life style your productivity does not increase during the time you’re working. It looks simplicistic. Even sophisticated. However, teachers are at risk to burning out. There are lots of articles written on the topic. Here and here you are with just two of them.
If it’s impossible for you to make the cut between working hours and free time, maybe you’d like to consider a switch to entirely working from home and setting your own schedule. Then, this post is for you. On the contrary, some teachers just quit the job and leave school forever. They cannot think about any remote work just because it’s always been too difficult for them to reach a positive work-life balance. In this case, a traditional 9/5-job can be the solution if you’re able to disconnect when shutting the company’s door after a long work day. There’s simply no easy solution since we’re all individuals with subjective limits, physical or emotional capacity.