Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Anticipating Professional Development ? Yes!

       A few years ago a colleague wrangled me into going to our state English teacher's conference. I had been "Ho hum" about these  opportunities in the past and wasn't that interested. Until I found out the speaker was Jim Burke of the English Companion Ning fame. I had recently joined this online community and found it inspiring and helpful. Since then, I've not missed a state conference.
       So when the National Council of Teachers of English conference was coming to Minneapolis, I knew I had to be there. I would not have a national conference come any closer to me than this. Now some may not think a five-hour drive to anything is "close," but when you live in the remote parts of the US as I do, your paradigm and definition of the word "close" changes. Drastically. For someone who grew up 30 minutes from Milwaukee and an hour from Chicago, "close" took on a new meaning when I moved to North Dakota. However, I truly believe the trek is nothing compared to the payoff which this conference promises.
        A few colleagues will travel with me as we go to be challenged in our pedagogy. As part of a professional book study reading Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This,  I can say I am looking forward to hearing him for a second time (the first at our state NDCTE conference a few years ago). I don't think I can hear Gallagher enough as I absorb something fresh from every encounter.
        Another anticipated speaker is Penny Kittle. She spoke at a recent NDCTE conference and challenged me to rethink my teaching in ways I had never considered. Her book Book Love is not a tome on teachers purchasing their own library; rather it's a challenge to teachers to get their students reading books the students like and choose rather than those mandated by the teacher. Implementing her ideas in my classroom has overhauled my lesson plans.
        Finally, I'm looking forward to hearing author Chris Crutcher. He will be the keynote speaker at a conference for teens being offered in my city in April. I am anticipating his talk as much as the other two.
        These are just  a few reasons I'm looking forward to this conference. I won't deny the getaway for professional development is a bit more rewarding knowing my district is investing in this opportunity. There's nothing like feeling appreciated and valued to make professional development feel more worthwhile. I am grateful for the monetary output of my district and want to make the most of it.
      However, even without the district support, I was intent on going to this event. When I saw the line up of Gallagher, Kittle and Crutcher it almost felt like destiny. I intended to do whatever it took, make whatever monetary sacrifices needed, to attend this conference. Having tried some of Kittle's and Gallagher's strategies made me want to see them even more to glean more insights into what I'm doing. The fact that Crutcher is also speaking felt like an added bonus since he'll be in my city soon, teaching at the teen conference.
      Even though my district is picking up some of the expenses of this trip, I'm still investing some of my own dollars. But to me, it's totally worth it. My students are worth it. I'm worth it as a professional.
       So when you have the chance to hear professionals such as those offered at this conference who are within driving distance, take advantage of the opportunity. Sacrifice your time
as a professional and invest in yourself. It'll make all the difference in your teaching. Just try it and see.

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