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Personal Growth as Professional Development for Teachers

Personal Growth as Professional Development for Teachers

February 22, 2022


When your cognitive and emotional batteries are running low, recharge by taking a genuine rest and take on a small design challenge to re-energize you and your students/colleagues. You may not immediately consider personal growth activities as part of your personal professional learning plan - but you should!


This article explores some simple yet effective ways to impact your personal and professional lives.

1) Rest

What does genuine rest look like? 

Last summer, I dove into reading Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, and I was taken with the premise that wellness is not a state of being but a state of action. 


This concept reframed from an elusive, nebulous pursuit of a magical vacation where I can sit on a beach and become well to a tangible set of practices and behaviors that are having a positive impact on my daily life. While the following suggestions are not new or earth-shattering, what might be the specificity of the habit and the celebration upon accomplishment.


Focus on your breathing: Even doing this for 1 minute has proven benefits. You can pay attention to your normal breathing pattern or try doing a breathing sequence (e.g., inhale for 4 counts, pause, exhale for 4 counts, pause).


What has been most helpful to me is that when my mind wanders, rather than scolding myself about lack of focus, I have learned to celebrate this as an act of mindfulness and then begin again. 


Move your body: Whether it is a stroll down the hallway or around the block; a more intense strength building or a high-intensity routine, physical movement has a way of calming down the incessant chatter of worry, anxiety, and what if’s. 


As I move, I am learning to celebrate the action I am taking in the moment rather than just after it is over. I also am tuning into when to add more intensity and when to back off depending upon my mood and how my body is feeling that day.


Develop a morning and nighttime routine: I admit, keeping the phone at arm’s reach is my kryptonite. It prompts me to unthinkingly scroll through social and news feeds and fritter precious time away. Plugin your phone across the room to help manage impulsivity. 

Consider adding a gratitude practice where you name 1-2 moments/people/experiences that you appreciate at the end of the day or looking forward to at the start of the next day.

2) Design Challenge 

What is a small design challenge that is worthy of the effort? 

Consider one that can benefit your daily or weekly routine when working with students or colleagues. Small moves can still be “bold” moves, especially if you are committing to growing a particular practice or routine with your students and colleagues.


What is something that you are interested in working on? Instead of just naming the topic — e.g., feedback, increased student motivation — unearth the why working on this will impact your interaction with students/colleagues and your expertise. Do I really want to look into this? Do I have sufficient desire to get started (and stick with it)? If you have sufficient desire, the most natural thing to do is to act. 


For example, there are timely and powerful learning Institutes on Eduplanet on topics such as Habits of Mind, Social Emotional Learning, Rebuilding for Equity and Inclusion, and Boosting Student Motivation. You can navigate by yourself asynchronously or can grab a like-minded partner and interact as a team.


What is a small step that you can take immediately to see if it is worthy of committing to? Start by taking action. You do this by making little bets to get something out into the world by asking questions, listening intently, making observations, and generating ideas.


A concrete example is a math teacher that wanted to develop more self-assessing learners - growing their disposition of metacognition. We designed an interactive checklist that she is going to use this week with her students.


Personal Growth as Professional Learning

What are you learning from your actions? Every time you act, reality changes. You better understand the quality of an idea by putting ideas out into the world. We do this through observations, testing, or audience reaction. 


Sometimes the step you take gets you nearer to what you want and sometimes what you want changes. It is also helpful to enlist your students or 1-2 like-minded colleagues to provide feedback. 


How might you build on your idea? You change course as needed to act on what you have learned. And you bring others along to continue to build on what was created. 

  • How has my understanding changed? Did I learn about what I want?
  • How did my empathy connect with others to care about the idea?
  • How do I bring other people along where we continually become invested in the idea? What are the next steps I/we might take?

Always take time to celebrate your continued growth and development despite difficult circumstances.

Professional Development for Teachers and Eduplanet21

Eduplanet21 offers robust Professional Learning Institutes from many well-known authors, including Allison. Learn more about our PLUS Institutes for your team!


About the Author:

Allison Zmuda has spent nearly two decades as a full-time education consultant specializing in curriculum, assessment, and instruction. She works with her clients to imagine learning experiences worthy of the pursuit for both students and educators, designing work that’s relevant, meaningful, challenging, and appropriate. Allison is co-author of the book: Students at the Center: Personalized Learning and Habits of Mind (ASCD). She also developed the Habits Personalized PLUS Professional Learning Institute with Eduplanet21.

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