Our professional work as educators is helping develop knowledge and skills in our students. One of the wonderful, yet frustrating, things about our profession is that no one teacher can ever know all there is to know about teaching a subject. There is always more to learn about the subjects themselves as well as learning better ways to help students understand the subject using critical thinking skills. Much of the professional learning in which we engage focuses on effective teaching strategies, gaining greater insight into the students with whom we work, or learning skills that help us collaborate with others. The Spring Instructional Conference is a great, cost-effective way to improve your knowledge and skill and rub elbows with your fellow educators.
But large statewide conferences do not occur every day. So how can we continue our professional learning between conferences? Your National Education Association and NEA-New Hampshire are working to support members’ professional learning in a variety of ways –self-study, working with colleagues, and connecting with theory and research.
One of the quickest and most efficient ways to learn new professional skills when you come across an area of interest, is self-study. When personal reflection helps you identify a topic of interest, there are several online sites that can help you locate the information you need to improve your practice. One great place to start is the NEA Academy. The Academy offers free and fee-based courses of varying lengths on topics such as classroom management, assessment and evaluation, STEM, and courses designed especially for new teachers and education support professionals. The NEA Academy is part of NEA’s Great Public Schools Network, which is loaded with free resources and materials for educators at all grade levels.
In addition to learning on your own, your colleagues can also be great resources for improving your professional learning. In her article, “The Missing Link for School Reform,” social science researcher Dr. Carrie Leana demonstrated that students had higher achievement in mathematics if they attended schools in which teachers had frequent conversations about effective strategies for teaching math. NEA-New Hampshire can support members of local associations develop mentoring or peer observation and coaching programs. NEA-New Hampshire also provides workshops for schools and districts when they are requested by local association presidents.
While colleagues in your building are fairly easy to access, you also have educational contemporaries all over the country whose practices can be accessed through educational research. Using research to inform your professional practices is the focus of one of NEA-New Hampshire’s current NEA grants called Habit of Mind. NEA-New Hampshire’s PESS Department is collaborating with the New Hampshire IHE Network, Association of Teacher Educators, National Education Association, American Library Association, American Association of School Librarians, the New Hampshire School Library Media Association, Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, and EBSCO on this project. From now until the end of the school year, a grant from NEA is providing NEA-New Hampshire members with free access to the EBSCO database containing thousands of articles and electronic books. NEA-New Hampshire will offer webinars this spring to members about the EBSCO database and how best to find the information you need. Read about the Habit of Mind Project. Interested members should contact PESS Coordinator Dr. Irv Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org for a password that provides free access to the database.
The guidelines for educator support and evaluation encourage professional responsibility, and as educators, one of our professional responsibilities is to continually improve our practices. NEA-New Hampshire continually works to help you improve your professional practices through online resources, opportunities to network with colleagues, and connecting you to the wide variety of educational research available.