Day 2 #AEC2016: Thoughts on Professional Learning

Day 2
Day 2 of #AEC2016 included an opening plenary with a few great speakers working under a TED-esque 12 minute time frame. The question that all of the speakers were tasked with discussing was “What Change Would You Like to See in Education?” Ideas included emphasizing visible thinking, habits of mind, and deemphasizing failure in our schools.

If I ask myself the same question, it is of course very hard to know where to begin. Part of what makes education so thrilling, but also so frustrating, is that there is a constant battle between a diverse body of individuals that have differing understandings of what the past, the present, and the future mean and hold for our children.

Maybe it’s because I am here at AEC 2016, where I am surrounded by an amazing sense of pride in this profession, but my answer, for what it’s worth, would be the following:

The change that I would like to see in education is that teachers begin to see themselves as professionals.

Now, most of our students consider us professionals, and the best administrators consider us professionals, and depending on what country you’re in or whom you talk to, even some parents consider us to be professionals. But when you really dig deep, deep into the depths of the average teachers’ psyche, do all teachers see themselves at the same level as doctors and lawyers?

I think, sadly, maybe not. And if my assumption is correct that many teachers do not think of their job as a profession, the question is what are we going to do about it? To paraphrase Ken Robinson from his book “Creative Schools”, for any change to happen you have to have:

A critique of how things are

A vision of how they should be

A theory of change for how to move from one to the other

A huge change that came to my career this summer was when I started my Twitter challenge with Stephanie, and created this blog. I was amazed by the creativity of professional teachers across this world, and the discussions and chats that I involved myself in were truly invigorating. What’s been even more impressive is that this newfound energy that developed in me this summer did not go away once the school year started. In fact, it has only grown in intensity as I’ve been able to implement these ideas in my classroom.

So, if we want teachers to see themselves as they should –  as true professionals – teachers have to leave the fishbowls of their schools, and Twitter is the best way I have found to do this. As the Edsurge infographic shows above, professional learning has moved from being a passive exercise to an active one.  The truth is, I may not have ever considered myself to a be a professional until I started creating a professional learning network (PLN) and started my own professional learning cycle.

This conference represents more than a series of institutes held in a host of rooms; It represents an opportunity to grow your PLN and to enter a new phase of your learning cycle. While I look forward to the learning experiences that are to be had here, I am even more excited about the professional learning that awaits me in cyberspace once the conference is over.

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