PD for the Multifaceted Professional
"Somebody do something, anything, soon...
I know I can't be the only whatever-I-am in the room.
So why am I so lonely?
Why am I so tired?
I need backup. I need company.
I need to be inspired."
--Ani DiFranco, Face Up and Sing
In a room full of classroom teachers, I could not raise my hand and claim to be one of them. Nor could I stand in a group of directors and act like our jobs are exactly the same. I am not solely a teacher of the arts, nor am I solely a developer of programming. So what does one do when they are hungry for the comfort of their fellow professionals, but they don't exactly have fellow professionals? In a world demanding more and more multidimensional people as professionals across the board, what is appropriate professional development? And how do you, as a life-long learner, seek out and find that development, not only for your employer but for your own slowly stagnating skills and waning brain?
That isn't the Universal You, really...this post is far more about me than you. I am still learning how to shield myself from dry-rot of the mind and encourage growth and potential on all fronts, for my health and for my profession. I'm certainly no master, but I do have some ideas, and my hope is that if I write them down and share them, they can be of help to you, too.
1) Learn Everything.
I have yet to go to a single class in my entire life and come away with not one thing to show for it; that's because I go in and I want to learn. Like the old adage says, you get out of a program, class or workshop what you put into it; same can be said of time spent reading an article versus time spent scrolling through Facebook, or putting aside a half-hour for networking over coffee instead of hiding in your office with the door closed re-writing your resume with no outside input. It isn't a bad thing to feel like the offerings around you are not ideal, but with the right attitude everything can be helpful on some level.
2) Reach Out to Mentors.
I have a long-standing joke with an old friend that she is "who I want to be when I grow up!" Obviously I'm 34, a professional in my own right, and that's laughable...but at the same time, it isn't. I made this friend by reaching out over email to someone I knew of and admired, and asking for guidance and advice. It was the easiest thing in the world to become friends once you realize your goals are so aligned. Who knows? Maybe this is the future of friendship!
3) Ask the Hard Questions.
This is actually about having faith in your abilities, and making any PD into something that will help you by shifting it towards your own (focused) needs. As an arts educator sitting in a room of credentialed teachers at a workshop built for people with an M.Ed. and tenure, there are going to be acronyms and issues thrown around with no explanation that I cannot follow and will not understand. Is that intimidating? Absolutely. Will there be people who roll their eyes at my presence? Eh, probably. But the truth is that it's nothing but admirable to raise your hand and say "Forgive, me, but I'm not clear on what you mean by ________, can you define that so that I can do a better job of following, for the sake of my own continuing ed?" Even if you think you are the only one there who's out of the loop, there will be ten people or more who come up to you and thank you for your voice; as it will turn out, they didn't understand, either! Plus, when you speak up and ask to understand, you make it known to the presenters that there are more than their single anticipated audience in the room; as a presenter myself, I will say that it's a riveting challenge (and not impossible) to differentiate education on an applicable human level, and speak to the needs of the people in the room instead of strictly from a script.
Is there specific PD out there for exactly your skill set, where you are as well as where you want to be? Of course there is! But time, finances, current projects, geography and basic life issues will always get in the way of getting to the best options every single time. Instead of kicking yourself for not having total professional freedom, consider the ways in which you might make your circumstances work for you!
And then, let's not lie, email me. I find my best professional development comes from the people around me who are, like me, eager to learn and grow.