How To Take Charge of Your PD

It can be frustrating as a teacher to participate in professional development (PD) that you don’t perceive as meeting your needs. I’ve been there myself. I’ve come to realize that PD needs to be differentiated, the way instruction for our students needs to be differentiated. Schools cannot meet the needs of every teacher with the limited time and resources they have dedicated to professional learning. As a result, they need to focus on federal, state, district, or school based initiatives-some of which are mandates they have no control of.

So as educators, we need to find ways to take charge of our own PD. Since I have grown my PLN (Personal/Professional Learning Network) I have found so many more opportunities to do just that. Where in the past I might buy and read professional books for myself or wait to see what workshops would be coming to my area-I now have global networks of educators who are literally streaming PD into my life on a daily basis. I am continually inspired, challenged, and excited by the ideas and innovations of my colleagues and will never hunger for professional growth because of them.


If you are reading this blog, there is a good chance you are already on Twitter and do not need convincing about how amazing this platform is for building a PLN and growing your PD.  But what about the colleagues in your school who are looking for opportunities to stretch and grow professionally?  It is often very difficult to explain how incredible Twitter can be when what they see is a president tweeting insults to others or Russians using it as active measures to disrupt democracy. Twitter is getting some bad press (and not entirely unjustly) but it remains one of the most powerful tools for bringing ideas and people together.  We need to show, not tell our colleagues how this can put the power of PD into their own hands. Start with


Similar to Twitter, other social media platforms can also be a great vehicle for connecting with like-minded or content related educators.  We can easily get “lost” surfing through social media. It is important to follow people who will inspire you so you don’t get mired in drama and minutae if you want to use these as professional tools. Sometimes setting up separate personal and professional accounts can be helpful. Here are a few ideas to get started.


This is one area I want to explore more this year.  This is a “walkie-talkie” app for smartphones. Many education chats, conferences and leadership teams now use a Voxer group to collaborate.


As great as virtual communities can be, there is nothing like connecting with passionate teachers in person.  EDcamps are springing up all across the country. These day-long, free professional development conferences are incredible. Last weekend I attended nErDcampNNE (Northern New England) here in Maine.  Not only did I get to learn from amazing kidlit authors and innovative teachers, I had the opportunity to share my own passion and expertise as I introduced a roomful of teachers to Sketchnoting. It was such an empowering experience for everyone. We created our own schedule of sessions from participant requests/suggestions. People stepped up to facilitate and share, then teachers could choose whatever they wanted to see-AND for those sessions they missed, they had access to the Google doc of notes and ideas

Micro Workshops

Even closer to home, is creating professional development opportunities from the wealth of expertise in our own schools.  This year in my district we have had several teachers share their knowledge in after school sessions and opened it up to teachers from other buildings (we have 4 elementary schools in my district).  One teacher shared tips for differentiating with English Language Learners (ELLs) in the regular classroom and another shared how to use ClassDojo to build community and increase communication. We have other teachers who want to learn about SMART boards and DonorsChoose so we will try to set up micro workshops on those topics. I have teachers who have set professional goals on writing, so I am offering a series of micro workshops with strategies from my Close Writing book.  I’d love to say we are paying teachers for this, but our budget doesn’t support it-so we are offering certification credits for those who attend, and extra ones for those who prepare and present. Talk about dedicated professionals!

My point in all of this, is that teachers no longer have to wait for professional development to come to them. They don’t have to bemoan the idea that district PD doesn’t meet their needs. They can be empowered to recognize their own needs and take charge of meeting them-and it can be a lot of fun!

What’s On My Book Radar?

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Wish Tree by Katherine Applegate

I have been waiting for this book for months and I worried that after listening to all the hype, I would be disappointed. It’s hard to live up to the acclaim that this book got, but I am thrilled to say it exceeded any preconceived expectations I had! In the same way she created The One and Only Ivan as a beautiful story with a powerful message, she has crafted Wish Tree. Never preachy but truly edifying, Applegate allows us to confront hard truths in gentle ways. In this story, the Wish Tree “Red” has stood for 216 years observing the ever-changing neighborhood. For years  people have tied scraps of ribbon or paper inscribed with wishes on its trunk and branches. When a new family moves in and a young girl shares her wish, Red feels compelled to move beyond observer. I cannot describe how gorgeous this writing is-I savor each line and find myself slowing down to let the words linger. The message contained in those words is even more sublime given our current political and social climate. I cannot recommend this book enough. Truly elevated to one of my all-time favorite books.

2 thoughts on “How To Take Charge of Your PD

  1. Paula, Thank you for putting together such a tidy nutshell of ways teachers can reach out to push their own professional learning. If you don’t mind, I’m going to borrow from it for an Intro to Building a PLN session at our upcoming reading conference’s Learning Lounge. That schedule of Twitter chats is amazing!

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