Have you ever had that feeling of absolute excitement when you walk out from a professional development session? The feeling of optimism and possibility and so many new things to try for your students. Our team has had two professional development sessions over the past week and I’ve walked out of both feeling like I have lots left to learn and so many new things I’d like to do better for my students. Here are some of my reflections…

The first session we had was led by Tina H. Boogren from Marzano Research. Her topic was creating a classroom culture that keeps students and teachers excited and enhances student learning. Using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Tina walked us through how students’ needs can be met and when they’re not, how this might show up in the classroom and how to address them. She also went through some thoughts on how to increase rigor in our classrooms, using the higher levels of the framework. Many of these concepts and ideas weren’t brand new, but they refreshed our memories and helped us get back to the basics of working with the youth. Of course, with professional development, I believe there’s always something new and unique that we can walk away with and I definitely found a few things that stuck with me:

  • When we feel positive emotions, our minds tend to be more open to what others have to say and more flexible in their ability to think about new ideas
    • Humor helps with this
  • The part of the brain that lights up when we move around is the same part that processes our learning
  • Students live up to our expectations – thus, we need to have high expectations of them ALL
    • In order to do this, we need to be hyper aware of our subconscious behaviors towards students and what expectations those communicate
  • Gratitude and inspiration are helpful and needed in the classroom and in our students’ lives

The second session of professional development that we went through was with a teacher, Riaz Rhemtulla, who is a part of the institute in London where we earned our M.A. degrees. He flew from there to the USA for just 3-4 days to sit with each city and talk through whatever we needed. We started with discussions on how our classes are going so far this year, what we’ve been successful in teaching to our students and what’s been falling by the wayside.

Riaz’s thoughts and comments on our work is always taken seriously, as he’s helped develop this curriculum and helped us learn how to bring it to life for our students. The key point of Riaz’s conversations was that history needs to be taught within its context, not just through the broader themes and concepts that we’ve identified. He also spoke to us about bringing in personal examples to help us connect more strongly with our students. Lastly, he emphasized bringing in current world events to help push students’ thinking outside of the boxes that they tend to be in.

Both sessions had their own unique topics and I learned different things from each, but walking away from them, I feel excited. I feel that there is a whole world of possibility for what I can help my students achieve and so much more I need to learn and work on to get there. Professional development sessions aren’t always useful, they aren’t always what we need at the time and sometimes, they’re just stressful with everything else going on. My belief has always been to walk in with an open mind and take as much as I can from the expert, because there’s always something I can take away that will help me be a stronger educator for my kids. And isn’t that the point of what we do?


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