One of my hobbies is gardening. I love to watch my flower garden as spring arrives; the drabness of winter is replaced by a lush green and then various hues as pasqueflowers, daylilies, yarrow, butterfly bushes, bee balm, and purple coneflower (among others) paint its surface.
Each year I purchase hanging baskets to adorn my front and back porches. Their very presence not only calms me, but brings me joy. Plants are nature’s way of reminding me that nothing lasts forever. Their beauty is temporary and requires nuturing.
South Carolina is in the second year of a drought. This June has also brought us more than our usual share of extremely high temperatures. Heat, combined with the lack of rain, stresses my plants. They will quickly remind me of this, too.
My hanging baskets and potted plants have required daily watering the last few weeks. On Wednesday, as I prepared to head to Greenville to attend the Upstate Technology Conference, I forgot to water one of my hanging baskets. When I arrived home Wednesday evening and went outside to check on my my flowers, I found the basket of purple million bells dry and shriveling. I quickly brought it up on the back porch to water it and shield it from the relentless sun it receives by the pool.
As I watered it and pinched off dead shoots, I realized that educators are like those beautiful hanging baskets. When the school year begins, we burst forth from our dormant season and are eager to meet each day. As each week passes, we tend to lose the enthusiasm with which we started the year as we settle in for the growing season. The year quickly heats up as we are enundated with papers, duties, meetings, lesson plans, and more.
If we do not nuture ourselves with professional development, we tend to get stuck in routines and our grand plans to make this year different shrivel up. Every educator who has attended a convention or conference realizes the immeasurable value it provides. We return from these sessions invigorated and ready to try newly learned techniques or tools.
However, most educators do not have the opportunity to attend such conventions or conferences often. That is why it is imperative that we take professional development into our own hands. We must seek ways to learn that do not require professional leave.
Each of us needs a mentor (or mentors) to inspire us and encourage us to continue to challenge ourselves. Today’s educators have opportunites for professional development that did not exist when I first began teaching. The internet provides us limitless possibilities to improve our understanding of our subject matter and the needs of today’s students. Some examples:
- online courses
- educational blogs
- lesson plan resources
- streaming video
- ebooks and ejournals
I am, of course, preaching to the choir here. If you are reading this, you have already taken responsibility for finding ways to continue your professional development beyond graduate courses, workshops, and conferences. You are to be applauded for this, but unfortunately, you are in the minority.
I challenge you to encourage the educators in your building and district to do the same. Tend to the garden where you bloom and your students will benefit. If you already have ways in which you do this, I would love to hear about them.