How many times do we tell our students to keep pursuing their educations and use words like “lifelong learners”? I would venture a pretty safe guess of at least daily if not many times a day. This is sound advice and one that we should be working our hardest to plant in our students minds, but I feel that educators often conveniently remove themselves from this goal/requirement. Why should we get the free pass on continuing to enlarge our knowledge base? Why do we think that, when we have gotten our credentials, masters degrees, or doctorates, our brains are suddenly saturated and cannot hold any more information or else it will go into overload mode? It amazes me the lengths some (note: I say some, most people reading this blog are not of this group) educators will go to avoid having to continue learning. (More after the page break!)
We get to choose now!
I was ecstatic to be finished with my undergraduate degree and moving onto grad school, taking classes that I was really passionate about — choosing the classes that I had to take and wanted to take. And now, being finished with graduate school — I find myself excited to continue learning, both about counseling and about other fields (like technology/programming, sociology, statistics, and neurology). Having the power to take classes you really desire to learn about provides strong intrinsic motivation and helps the learner spark interest and remain engaged throughout the entire course/process.
So when looking at your professional development past experiences and future plans, what have you done and what would you like to do? Part of the secret is that it does
not necessarily matter wh
at you study, but what matters is that you study something. Your brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised — the use it or lose it principle applies. Doing the same mental work out routine over time becomes boring and no longer has the same positive effect, just like in physical exercise. Think of when you started jogging, lifting weights, zoomba-ing, or jazzercizing (depending on your era) — you did not do the same thing all the time. If you were working out smart, you varied the program and worked different muscles and areas of your body. You also did not only do one size of weight — hopefully you worked to being able to lift the weights and then added more. This is how we grow.
One last key thing to remember when looking at Pro-D is that you want a wide range of learning interests. Don’t focus on just one thing, that would be like working out just one bicep. Yeah, that bicep would be super buff, but the rest of you would end up weak. Unless you are a very focused specialist, you are going to need your whole brain to be worked and strengthened.
Now that you are counseling, teaching, or running a school — you have done a lot of heavy “lifting” (those text books can get heavy), but don’t let yourself get out of your learning routine. You have to continue pouring in knowledge through professional development opportunities. I am going to cover several opportunities from various, differentiated learning avenues you can take. Most school districts offer professional development from time to time or funds to seek out your own, but most likely they will not have you specifically in mind. It is up to you to make sure that you are learning and seeking out the topics you are interested in.
Take a pottery class, a finance course at a local community college, or communications studies class. You can connect things to your job field from just about any class you take and get the brain flexing power up of learning new material at the same time.
Next time, I am going to introduce Coursera.org (you people that like to get ahead can check it out now!) — a website that offers online, 6-12 week courses from top universities (think: Stanford, Berkeley, Princeton, etc.) for FREE. That is right — F-R-E-E. They are taught by well-renowned professors and are fairly comprehensive (with projects, quizzes, midterms, and final exams). The only caveat is that you probably won’t be able to get salary scale credit for these classes, as you don’t get actual college credit (but you do get a certificate of completion, valuable knowledge and skills, and a feeling of self-accomplishment).
Check it out and in the next few days, I will be back with a look at Coursera.org