Have you left the teaching or education world, either by resigning or by taking a leave of absence? Are you looking for flexible and creative ways to grow as an educator? As a professional in the field of education, I have taken a leave of absence three times and resigned from two positions over the course of my twenty-five year tenure in education. Whether the impetus to leave was for medical or family reasons, or to go from a public to private school, I was resolved to keep my teaching credentials current and renewed.
This is so important, as you never know when you may need or want to return to teaching, and it is much easier to earn renewal credits than it is to start all over with your certification process. In some states like Maryland, you do not have to be actively employed to maintain your teaching certificates. I just make sure that I earn my six renewal credits every five years.
However, the tricky part is finding professional development opportunities when you are not part of a school or school system. Although I would enjoy taking college classes and perhaps start work on my Ph.D., that is just not feasible for me right now for many reasons. Instead, I take online courses for a nominal fee (as compared to college classes) that offer professional development renewal credits through Thinkport. I love the flexibility of the online classes in that I can complete course work around my family’s schedule. Plus, the content is top-notch and includes current journal articles, research, and an opportunity for me to network and collaborate with my peers. Check into your state department of education to see if they offer something similar.
As well, your local school district may offer after school or summer courses for renewal credits that you can take for a small fee. In my county, they welcome teachers that are not part of the school system to take these classes, although they do accept applications from currently employed teachers first. Contact your local central office in your county or district for information.
Although I am not currently employed, my teaching certificates are up to date and renewed. My own personal professional development consists of various activities that I initiate based on how much time I have and on my interests. Not only do I have an intense desire to keep my finger on the pulse of education, but I enjoy and crave learning about new theories, practices, curricula, and the latest picture and chapter books and young adult literature for children.
What is included in my repertoire of professional development?
- Maintaining my membership in the International Reading Association. This includes regularly reading professional journals such as The Reading Teacher. You may be interested in joining the IRA or ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) or the National Education Association (NEA). See here for a list of professional organizations and associations by content area.
- Using social media: Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are not just for social interaction; they are opportunities for learning as well. There are numerous professional organizations on Facebook where you can post questions and collaborate with other professionals to keep current in your field. And Pinterest? It’s not just a pretty picture site of recipes and crafts. Major corporations, authors, theorists, and professional development facilitators utilize Pinterest for marketing and for sharing their resources and websites. For example, if you have an interest in learning about lap books, do a search on Pinterest and hundreds if not thousands of results will appear for you to peruse.
- Online communities- ProTeacher Community is a very thorough website organized by grade level, content area, and more. It is free to join. If you post a question (e.g. What picture books are good to use when teaching predicting?) you will get many responses and get them fast.
- Professional book reading- I find excellent book recommendations from my social media contacts, blogs, and from Pinterest. While reading my favorite blogs, a year or so ago, I kept seeing many posts about The Book Whisperer. I checked it out and love the book, as it has been a great resource of information and of inspiration.
- Blogs-I read many, many blogs written by teachers, authors, presenters, therapists, and others through my bloglovin’ feed. Not only can you learn an incredible amount of information from the text of the post, but also from the photos that many bloggers include. You get a sneak peek into their classroom to see how a concept or lesson works. Some even include short videos and free lessons or printables. Sometimes bloggers will conduct book clubs that they host on their blog. Last summer there was one on The Daily 5 and on Whole Brain Teaching for example.
- Webinars- You can find free live and archived webinars on the internet. I attended a webinar hosted by Laura Candler on literacy two years ago that was very helpful and taught me a lot. Plus, she had an exclusive packet in PDF form with many of the resources she discussed for participants to download. If you follow authors and organizations on Facebook or Twitter, they will let you know of webinars in advance.
Of course this isn’t a definitive list, but it is what works for me to quench my thirst for learning current and cutting-edge educational topics and theories. And, just in case I do want to return to teaching someday, hopefully I will still be somewhat “in the loop.”