An unexpected way to reignite the spark for veteran teachers
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Often, professional development throughout the year is based on the newest trends, a district initiative or a fundamental requirement that just has to get done. Unfortunately, it seems the longer an educator teaches, the less value these training sessions provide.
Instead of resigning yourself to boredom, try this unexpected way to reignite the teaching spark and enjoy a genuine opportunity for professional development.
Go big or go home
Instead of looking at professional development seminars as the only opportunity for professional development, consider opportunities for change as additional options for learning and growth. In other words, are you eligible for a sabbatical, job swap or alternative job within your building or district?
While many K-12 teachers do not think of sabbaticals, they are a great way to pursue (or renew) a passion, learn from others and in general get out of the normal routine.
Alternatively, if a sabbatical is too competitive or logistically challenging, consider a job swap. Swaps also provide the opportunity to safely take a break from your current role while enjoying a change of pace and perspective within the district.
Pamela Murray, a veteran educator, decided to take the plunge. Murray, who has taught at the high school level for 24 years, notes that she loved her job but wanted to feel refreshed. So, when she saw the opportunity to job swap with someone in her district’s middle school, she jumped on it.
Murray cites several reasons for making the change. First, it allowed her to try a new position relatively risk-free. Second, she knew it would challenge her teaching — new age group, new curriculum, new grading policies, new staff, new building, new everything — in a way that would never happen in her current placement.
And third, the excitement of it. Murray notes: "We are a relatively stable group, teachers. We tend to gravitate towards the age, the curriculum and the people we know. This was a much-needed chance to break out of that pattern. Having already achieved my National Board Certification, aside from a new degree, this was my best chance to challenge myself."
In addition to the new perspective on teaching, taking advantage of safe, sanctioned leaves come with a host of other opportunities for growth. According to Murray: "I was essentially a new teacher in a veteran teacher’s body. That was tough! I was used to being a mentor and a leader, here I was the new person asking basic questions."
To remain open to learning instead of being overwhelmed, Murray focused on her teaching while slowly building relationships with other faculty. "I knew I would feel best while striking a balance between learning the ‘new’ stuff while also contributing in areas that I felt I had strengths. This balance allowed me to accept that I was new, while also sharing ideas with my new learning community of professionals. Yes, I was inexperienced at this building level, but that did not negate my years of experience at the secondary level. I reminded myself that I had much to offer! That balance has been slow, but important in keeping me feeling grounded. The whole point of this endeavor was to refresh myself, so I reminded myself that I needed to embrace the WHOLE process not just the successful moments."
The bottom line is, whether the change leads to a new position for another 20 years or a return to the old one with fresh perspective, taking advantage of the safe opportunities to try something new is a great benefit of being a teacher and a chance to enjoy true career-impacting professional development.
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