Have you ever started online professional development with the intention of keeping up and submitting the work on time but find yourself falling behind before you get started?
I am in the same position right now. I signed up for two professional development programs: The Forty Hour Workweek (Angela Watson’s course) and Jumpstart Plus (The Cult of Pedagogy). I hadn’t counted on increased responsibilities at school since the time of COVID-19. I still teach (only) three academic classes and run an informal reading lab, but I’m also mentoring a first-year teacher. If I’m needed, I sub for other teachers during the last two periods of the school day as well. I am not complaining, though. I love my little school, and I love the students I teach and the ones I take care of. In fact, my favorite adopted class is the first grade. I think they believe I am their pet. I can’t walk past their door anymore without them calling out to me, much to their teacher’s dismay at times. And then there’s the fourth graders–and the fifth graders in my reading lab and study hall.
So, what can I do to help keep on track?
I suppose the first thing I should do is re-examine my reasons for taking the classes. What do I want from them? How will they help me be a better teacher?
The Forty Hour Work Week class is one I wanted to take in order to learn how to be a more organized teacher, not to lighten my workload but to make it easier. I am envious of the teachers who are able to walk out of the school building every day at the end of the workday with little or no work to do at home. Right now, the only reason I leave directly after my school day is that my last class ends at 1:00, and I want to be “out of the way” of the teachers who come into my classroom with the sixth graders for those two periods.
Jumpstart Plus is a technology-based class. It is a wonderful introduction to using technologies of all kinds for different purposes. In these days of remote teaching and learning, it is vital that I, as a teacher, keep up with technology and the pedagogy related to it.
Now, I just need to follow the advice of the Nike commercials: Just do it.
So, here are some tips that may help me:
- Stay organized. This might mean scheduling a specific time to work on the class assignments, including setting reminders on cellphones and computers, and electronic calendars.
- Rely on the syllabus. Have the syllabus handy and consult it. Record the due dates. Make sure the assignment requirements are clear.
- Have accurate expectations. And make those expectations realistic. How much time and effort will these courses take? I have taken courses from Alice Keeler, and her expectation for participants is about a half-hour to an hour a week. That’s doable. The Jumpstart course takes about eight weeks–one module a week.
- Communication is key. Hopefully, there is a way to communicate with the person who is leading the course or professional development, especially if it involves completing assignments. There may also be ways to communicate with other participants who can provide support–technical as well as moral. A team or cohort also provides accountability.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and associated adjustments we are making in teaching and learning, we have to change the way we all learn.
My first step is to re-organize and reset my priorities. I will use that planner of mine and schedule appointments with myself to work on the courses I’ve signed up for.