As an educator I have always firmly placed myself in the role of learner. As an 18-year-old wannabe teacher, way back when, I remember thinking I will only teach for 10 years. Surely, by then, I would be bored of teaching the same novels and plays every year. I’d need to move on if only for my own sanity!

Obviously, I quickly came to realise that teaching is much more than content delivery and I relished the challenge of learning to deal with the ‘real’ business of teaching. The  relationships, the analysis of people, work, behaviour, attitude all to establish a plan to help them succeed. The ability to meet the needs of every single type of learner imaginable. The quest to make sure I remained passionate and current in my understanding of English and drama (even when I had to teach texts I really, really wasn’t keen on). We all know that I believe, in my heart, that the best learners really do make the best teachers. It’s one of the many reasons Edufolios exists today.

I’ve just spent two days at a local Edtech conference. I attend this conference almost every year and it’s always a productive and insightful adventure. I always go away buzzing with an idea to grow. This year however, unusually, the ‘thing’ that’s spinning around in my brain has nothing to do with education technology. Instead, my focus has honed itself on a feeling a murmur of sadness and futility that presented itself subtly throughout the keynotes and then hit me like a hammer during a professional panel.

Amongst the other key messages I heard, one strong idea about the need for quality professional development for teachers came out over and over again.  It was constantly stated for there was a knowledge gap when it came to STEM and digital technologies.  That there just wasn’t enough quality PD available. (I’m not entirely sure that’s true and the reason for that will become clear I’m sure) The reason that the panel discussion, held at the end of the conference, made this message stick in mind was due to two very strong statements.

The first was one which suggested that the reality was, that the people in the audience, those who had given two days of their time to grow their skills, were probably not the ones who needed to be here. That those in attendance, perhaps even presenting, were not the ones who needed to grow these skills.  That somehow, by having them instead of the reluctant in the room, the impact would not be as promising. As this was said there were audible murmurs of agreement, both from the panel and the audience being addressed, and my heart sank into my stomach.

As my head spun over whether  I had any right to feel this way, I eventually plucked up the courage to ask a question. It was intended as a loaded one, to perhaps challenge and push this thinking, but I’d run out of time.  Instead, I was asked to tweet the question. Here is what I wanted to ask.

You see, every single person who attended that conference has the power, perhaps even the responsibility, to be the professional development that is apparently lacking. To empower their colleagues to make a difference. I’m just not sure that they, or the panel, had realized that. Yes there were people from different career stages in that room but no they were not the wrong people to be there and here is why.

If you’re working towards the graduate career stage then you’ve just spent two wonderful days learning from the profession you’re about to join.  Now,  when you complete your course modules on ICT or digital technologies or when you go on prac. you’ve just added invaluable networks, knowledge and context to your tool belt. You can share these things with your fellow uni students, your mentors and most importantly the kids that you will teach.

If you’re heading for full registration and are working towards the proficient standard? You’ve just done the same thing as your graduate friends. Except, you now have more opportunities to practice that learning, to experiment with it,to model it to the mentors at your site and to inspire both your students and your colleagues.

You have the responsibility to take something from this learning, to implement it and hopefully…help others understand it

If you’ve already filled out that bit of paperwork  (even if you’ve climbed the top of your pay scale after years of service) You have the responsibility to take something from this learning, to implement it and hopefully (in your role as a fully qualified and proven professional) help others understand it. As a highly accomplished teacher you might be working to disseminate this knowledge, working with others to experiment and refine this content in your context.

And if you’re working at lead? If you consider yourself to be a leader in your site. Well this could spark a whole school initiative in which you empower your highly accomplished, proficient and recently graduated teachers to achieve everything I’ve just stated above.

The post you write about the conference you attended today is the very first step of a fabulous journey of development and learning

What we can’t do, what we mustn’t do, is take the certificate and lose the growth that we’ve just experienced by never implementing what we’ve learned.  In my Edufolios session, run at this same conference, we discussed at some length how the P.D was supposed to be continual, not momentary. It doesn’t stop when you leave the conference, or when you receive the certificate. In fact, it never stops at all. That’s what Edufolios is all about. This is a safe place for you to grow your knowledge and understanding, to record your triumphs and your failures and to reflect on what they show.  The post you write about the conference you attended today is the very first step of a fabulous journey of development and learning in the context of your classroom. Every person who writes about this conference, will write a different story and we can all learn from those differing narratives.

The people in that audience were, in my opinion, exactly the right people to be there. As a profession, with the help of the framework inside those standards, it’s us to up to us to document what we do with that learning, to share it, to inspire each other with our stories of practice. Doing so gives us the power to empower ourselves, to empower our profession. Through reflective practice, we can inspire all around us. Never underestimate  your power and the impact that you can have.

One of the other panel members stated that “schools were centers of learning” but that in her journey as an educator and researcher she had noticed that not all teachers joined in that journey. That they didn’t see themselves as learners. That some teachers do their degree, their master’s, their time and they think that’s it. That they know enough. They give themselves permission to stop learning.

That is not the profession that I believe in. It is not the profession that I’m a part of. It is not the profession that will create amazing futures.  How about you?  Never doubt yourself, you are an educator, you’re a chief learner. Empower yourself and others and by all means use the tools we’ve created here to do so.

Can you share a story of how your reflective practice has empowered you or others?  Go on.. comment below and feel free to share a link to your edufolio!

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