Saturday, November 8, 2014

Attitude of Gratitude #7: Inspirational Lessons

I'm one of those "professional development junkies," happy to comply with professional development regulations. I show up at practically everything. The snacks don't hurt, either. And, after listening to so many PD horror stories from colleagues from other schools and grade levels, I know I'm luck that wherever I've taught, they've had great PD offerings. 

So answering today's challenge, "What new learning has inspired you in your career?" means having to select from so many wonderful professional development activities I've attended.  Rather than pick one, I'll share what I've read for (or as a result of) PD programs: 

Growth Mindset: Since I first read excerpts from Carol Dweck's Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, I was hooked. It's helped me tremendously to motivate and encourage students who believe they don't have the skill or talent to succeed. At least once a week, I bump into an article or blog post that references Dweck's theory that it's more about practice than talent. And I've slowly found ways encourage that kind of thinking in my classes. Slowly. 

Digitally Enhanced Teaching: It's taken be several years of a gradual growth curve to feel comfortable with technology. The most important points along that curve were realizing the difference between adding a cool shiny digital layer to an assignment vs. leveraging technology to actually promotes and enhances the writing process. The two catalysts?  Troy Hicks' Crafting Digital Writing and Jose Antonio Bowen's Teaching Naked. The first got me to revise the way I use blogging in the classroom. The second helped me to rethink my views on social media and cell phones. I don't fully implement all their suggestions (wish I could!), but by degree, I'm getting more and more naked. 

Critical Thinking: Many years ago, the dean of our college introduced me to Linda Elder and Richard Paul's Critical Thinking Community, formerly known as the Foundation for Critical Thinking. The website it full of resources regarding the elements of thinking and standards we can use to evaluate our reasoning - for all grade levels. I've been incorporating their way of thinking about reasoning into all my classes, little by little. I refer to their starter booklet The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking practically every week. Love. It.  

One thing these inspirations have in common is that i didn't "fully convert" overnight. The "aha moments" were intense, for sure. But It took a semester or two of marinating over their ideas, experimenting with one or two easy, doable changes at a time. Some mindsets and practices were easy to immediately modify for my setting. Others took longer to digest and modify, for instance, allowing students to keep their cell phones on their desk.  

A big take-away for me is I don't have to change all at once. When I decide to follow an inspiration, I can be selective. I can take my time, deliberating on what changes might work. After implementing changes, I can reflect on what students learned to make thoughtful, relevant revisions. 

Big ups to my workplace and the San Diego Writing Project for offering these meaningful,useful learning opportunities. Their gifts continue to shape my teaching philosophy and practice.