In the previous entry, I named three ways you can work with other teachers for professional development. Let’s consider two more options that are highly effective, very affordable, and relatively easy to arrange since each is a solo project:
- Videotape your own classes. Not many people enjoy hearing a recording of their own voice let alone seeing themselves on video. Nevertheless, watching your own lessons as an observer allows you to be more reflective about your teaching. From your posture and movement to your use of the board, from your answers to students’ questions to your pacing of exercises and activities, observing your own classes will make you aware of all the elements that are needed to create a good lesson. Just be sure to explain to the students in advance the reason for videotaping a class so they know that you are the focus, not them, and that only you will be viewing the recordings. If your school doesn’t already have a video camera, you might suggest buying one as an investment in professional development. The single purchase will potentially benefit all teachers on staff.
- Try making a vodcast. I can’t tell you how much my work on YouTube has helped me to become a better teacher. (Well, I could, but it would take too much of your time!) One great benefit is the pressure to “get it right” before I upload a new lesson for my subscribers. Unlike a lesson in real time, a vodcast is for posterity. Distribution on the Internet makes it impossible to take anything back, so I am forced to reexamine my understanding before making a presentation and think about my choice of words before speaking on camera. Vodcasts over the Internet can be very exposing, but by opening yourself up to the mix of positive and negative feedback, you become a stronger and more confident teacher. Start small, for example, by posting a private video for your own students. Invite their feedback.
All five proposals in this entry and the previous one have the advantage of affordability and flexibility. I don’t present them as substitutes for the more traditional forms of professional development, but rather as additional ones. By finding some extra time in our busy schedules to develop our knowledge and skills, we renew our commitment to our students and our profession. I think we all agree that inside every teacher is an ever-present learner.