If you’re pausing your teaching career during parental leave for a few years, we have some ideas to help you keep up with the education world!
#1: Watch for license renewal credits opportunities
When the time comes for you to resume your teaching career, you don’t want to be stuck with retroactively tracking down hours and paperwork! Develop a professional learning plan now, combing your state or country requirements. Contact your prior administration for documentation of any accumulated credits during your employment.
#2: Volunteer at your last school
Strap on that Baby Bjorn or occasionally drop off kids with a babysitter to maintain educational ties in your community. Gauge what’s realistic for your circumstances, though, whether it’s simply to read with students now and then, or to facilitate an extracurricular activity, such as a TED-Ed Club
#3: Volunteer online
Sign up to tutor online! Become a Granny in Sugata Mitra’s “School in the Cloud.” You can even combine #2 & #3 via interactive platforms like Skype. For instance, when I was housebound during our school’s annual PYP Exhibition process, I volunteered to mentor a few student groups through weekly Skype “meetings” instead. The students loved sharing their progress on the webcam, and I loved being involved despite my situation.
Classroom 2.0 LIVE hosts free online shows. PLP Network offers purchased E-courses (with options for graduate credit, too). And once you’ve established #4, Twitter Chats can be especially helpful–for me, one solid chat usually ends with with about 37 new open tabs of resources.
Was packing your classroom materials a whirlwind of items flying into unlabeled boxes? Then you need to fire up your scanner and read our post on getting organized. ASAP. Your sanity will thank you later when you resume teaching.
#7: Organize your new resources
After getting inspired by the 37+ tabs of resources discovered during a Tweet Chat, make sure you can find them again! Establish a bookmarking system that works for you, be it a Delicious account, or several categorized folders to sort your bookmarks on your browser (Chrome is a great option since it saves your bookmarks across your devices if you’re logged into your Google account).
#8: Develop a Skill
Brush up your old high school Spanish using the free Duolingo app. Fine-tune your piano playing. Explore PhotoShop or Prezi. Anything that you enjoy will enhance your classroom, even if it’s not directly related to your content–after all, your future students need models of adults pursuing passions!
#9: Revamp Your Class Blog!
Browse your favorite class blogs, and then find ways to incorporate your favorite user-friendly features on your own blog!
#10: Re-evaluate your WHY as a Teacher!
Reflect on your previous practices and honestly assess what can be improved or tossed altogether. Consider how you can return to the educational work-force with an even deeper commitment to authentic learning (on that subject, be sure to check out our tips on becoming a 21st Century teacher)!
And of course, remember to make the most of this precious and swiftly passing time with your little one(s)!
What does it mean to become a 21st century educator? Effective technology integration certainly plays its role, but it’s also about accessibility and individual perspective shifts. Find inspiration in our 10 tips…
When we refer to becoming a 21st century teacher, we certainly recognize that technology plays an enormous role in how quality education has evolved. However, we feel it also reaches into simple attitudes that are shifting. It’s likely a reciprocal effect: the more technology use and global networking has grown, the more recognition has spread for best practices; the more the recognition for best practices has spread, the more technology has been examined to assist in this innovation. Still, as adept as many teachers are in adopting 21st century attitudes and strategies, we know many others feel overwhelmed by it all, from first year teachers to veterans nearing retirement. We feel that starting small, one attitude or strategy at a time, is the best method!
#1: Reject “Content is King!”
A quote from the above video that bears repeating:
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” ~Karl Fisch
If we allow our teaching to exist mostly as delivering information that students memorize, our job descriptions could be quickly outsourced to Google! Worse still, our students’ limited skills would also be highly replaceable by search engines and video databases like LearnZillion. 21st Century teachers and learners alike must realize that education is no longer about what we’ve memorized, but about how we learn to evaluate and utilize information!
#2: Recognize that Change is Essential!
Ken Robinson has been a tremendously influential voice when it comes to the need to change our thinking in education. Some of the primary changes he suggests include the way we think about “human capacity,” collaboration, and the “habits of institutions.” On a similar track, author and educator Shelly Blake-Plock outlined 21 Things that Will be Obsolete by 2020 (reflection post), including current systems of standardized testing for college admissions and organizing classes by age and grade.
A prominent example of current change is the Common Core (see our CCSS article). Some parents are frustrated that it does NOT involve a back-to-basics, “finding the answer” approach. (See one example of a parent who allegedly exclaimed on his child’s homework page that the “real world” would favor faster, simpler vertical subtraction over evaluating misconceptions using a visual number line. We would point out that a calculator is even faster and simpler, if speed is really the highest priority in “the real world”). In their fear of education looking different than it did when they were kids, these individuals seem to miss that the emphasis is now on critical thinking, a crucial shift when you think back to our tip #1 in particular. There is a difference between education and learning, and fortunately, the 21st century is moving more toward the latter.
#3: Develop a PLN
A PLN (Personal Learning Network) allows you to maximize your professional development as you use social media and other platforms to learn and collaborate with teachers around the world. If Shelly Blake-Plock is correct about the way school Professional Development is moving toward teachers taking the lead, PLN’s will prove increasingly important for every educator to have in place. Our article on PLN’s is a great resource for beginners!
#4: Encourage students to develop PLN’s
The above word cloud took shape when creator Caroline Bucky asked members her own PLN what their individual PLN’s meant to them. If students were enabled to create such meaningful networks, imagine the ramifications that would have on their ability to contribute to a global society (another major aspect of the 21st century)!
For many decades, ideas from student-centered pedagogy theorists like Jean Piaget have taught the importance of this attitude. In fact, a wonderful Piaget quote on the topic of student ownership reads:
“The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.” ~Jean Piaget
He said this in 1964. Think of the greater importance for students to “verify, and not accept, everything they are offered” now that the digital world provides them with a constant stream of information! This kind of ownership for learning does not happen when our expectations are limited to students “repeating what other generations have done”–in other words, limited to the content and understanding we bring to the table. Evidence that we can improve in this regard exists in examples such as the above screenshot we took today.
#7: Be Vulnerable with Students
A frequent 21st century dialogue in education involves asking, “How do we help our students become fully engaged in learning?” We feel that a large part of the answer to this question begins with our own levels of engagement and vulnerability as learners with our students. Brené Brown researches and writes on this very topic. She created a leadership manifesto that outlines patterns from her research on how we truly connect and engage. A powerful quote from it:
“When learning and working are dehumanized–when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform–we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion. What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us, and learn from us.” ~Brené Brown
In short, to prevent disengagement, we absolutely must stop pretending that we know all the answers or that we do not make mistakes.
#8: Examine Your Why
In our post on Flipped Learning, we reference Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle of beginning with the Why. To succeed in the 21st century, becoming a life-long, self-motivated learner is not a nicety–it is a necessity. Cultivating our own Why as teachers and then keeping that at the forefront of our endeavors is an influential attitude simply because we are modeling it for our students. It helps them absorb the “point” of learning and to begin cultivating their own Why’s.
#9: Pursue Your Needs!
Have a low classroom budget? Is 1:1 technology nonexistent in your school? Are you in need of high quality mentor texts in your class library? Thanks to developments here in the 21st century, no longer are your frustrations limited to faculty lounge griping. Tools like DonorsChoose.org allow teacher empowerment as you shop for items you need and write a simple, mini-grant (or project), asking generous donors for help. Not only can you enlist your PLN to spread the word of your project through social media, but you can also look for help from programs in your area like Chevron’s Fuel Your School, which works to fund as many DonorsChoose teacher projects as possible during the month of October (be sure to wait to submit your project until October 1st to qualify)! Additionally, you can work with your administration to implement innovative school programs such as BYOD (see our article on 10 tips for Bring Your Own Device programs) if you’re looking for more technology accessibility in your classroom.
#10: Use Technology to Make Best Use of Time
This infographic by Anna Vital gives several examples of creative ways to save time, including using keyboard shortcuts! We would also suggest other simple strategies, such as keeping your email inbox cleaned up, turning off phone notifications for everything except the things you truly want to interrupt your life (some phones even allow you to turn off notifications or calls at certain times or locations), and utilizing apps to keep your priorities organized. Establishing such strategies that work for you can simplify your planning and classroom time, allowing you to focus on what matters most for you personally and professionally.