This summer, I participated in a healthy dose of professional development. In fact, one aspect of the Kenan Fellows Program I am most excited about is the multiple well organized and focused PD opportunities. However, my approach to PD can be both positive and negative. I think of it as PD blinders.
In horse racing, some riders use small pieces of firm leather around the eyes of the horse to keep the animal from being distracted by it’s peripheral vision. These blinders keep the horse focused and running towards the desired destination. Without the blinders, many horses would become distracted and run of course.
This is me during professional development. Prior to entering a session, I read the descriptions, think about the topics and pick out one specific skill I want to learn or improve upon. For example, when the Kenan Fellows went to NCCAT, I decided on the drive to Cullowhee I want to improve the use of social media in my classroom.
I focused on incremental improvement in the interactive mediums of online applications like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Without a doubt, I grew in these areas and now have a firm plan on how to integrate these resources into my classroom.
However, as I reflect on my professional development experiences, I wonder: Are the blinders a positive or negative? By using a hyper-focus on my predetermined self-development goals, did I miss out on growing in areas like data literacy and classroom culture? These sessions and presenters also had much to offer and who knows what I could learn if I allowed myself to go off course to engage in these opportunities.
As I travel back to my school for the upcoming school year, I am met with the latest round of PD. Should I put my blinders on and race towards a predetermined self improvement goal? Or, should I open myself up to exploring all the options, possibly spinning my mental wheels, but ultimately growing in a new area I did not anticipate?