Professional Development: Where I Am Now and the Reason I’m Here

The Need for Professional Development

When I began teaching as a substitute teacher, I discovered three things. First, I belong to no staff, which means I have no staff to discuss my profession or develop with. Second, I have limited access to formal professional development (PD) activities (my school district provides PD only to contract teachers), which means I have to look outside of my district for PD. And third, I am only seeing certain aspects of my students’ learning, mainly the “Yea, a substitute teacher. Party. Party. Party.” aspect, so I rarely see their successes and final products.

Substitute teacher
Classroom by Sarah Beise (2007).
Posted with permission.

Finding PD Online

To alleviate the first two problems, I participated in a PD webinar, Using Social Media for Transformative Teaching & Learning, facilitated by Alec and George Couros. I now microblog and read RSS feeds to passively gather information on education and socially bookmark and blog to actively create and share information. These activities allow me to build a personal learning network (PLN) as well, which means now I have a “staff” to develop with.

To alleviate the third problem about my tunnelled interaction with students, I mark, which to me is my favorite part of teaching because I get to see just how great my students are.

Refocus: Blogging for a Reason

I began this blog nearly a month ago to provide myself with reliable and tailored professional development with the intent of using specific empirical events and examples, mostly experienced by a substitute teacher, to share and discuss my observations and reflections about teaching and learning. I hoped, albeit ostensibly, this goal would provide enough fuel to sustain a blog indefinitely. The offshoot is that in the last three weeks I wrote only two posts in each of my blogs, including David Wees’ Educational Comics.

My experience so far has taught me two things. One, as Phillip Dews states, Blogging is Hard Work! It Really is! I find that each post I write takes me a few days rather than the one to three hours I thought it would to publish. Two, waiting for events or inspiration to happen, even if gathered through Twitter, alerts and RSS feed, fails to produce consistent enough fuel to sustain a viable blog.

So, I am adjusting my course. I realize that my professional blog needs a more focussed and active purpose. I was saying that my blog is for PD, but I was not PDing with it. I am therefore planning what I blog and focussing my blog to be a vehicle for me to continue to actively develop my professional teaching skills and style, to learn content more in-depth and to share teaching resources and my thoughts with other teachers. Furthermore, since I am trained in Biology, Mathematics and ELA, and I am interested in exploring learning using educational games; open problems; and modern, Web 2.0+, blended and social technology, this blog will alternate weekly between these topics. I hope not only to share resources I create or discover, but also to share PD research.

The progress here from what I was doing before is that I am blogging through PDing instead of PDing through blogging. The change should make this a tighter, stronger blog.

Getting Help

In addition to revising my premise for blogging, I decided to recruit some help, in the form of blogging PD. To this end I have simultaneously joined Anne Mirtschin, Ronnie Burt, Sue Waters and Sue Wyatt in their 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging Teacher Challenge, and Scott Berkun in his Want to blog more often? 2011 Challenge hosted on WordPress DailyPost.

Already these challenges have produced results, for I finally found focus to write my About page. Feel free to take a look.

And drop by to see how I am doing and to cheer me on. (I think I’m going to need it. 😉 ).


6 thoughts on “Professional Development: Where I Am Now and the Reason I’m Here

  1. Hey Shawn

    Great post, i just wanted first to say thanks for my linkback and to wish you all success in you blog!
    Was wondering if you have read any og my 3 books on blogging at all? might be worth your while!
    Be Well my Friend
    -Phillip Dews

    • Hi Phillip,

      Thank you for commenting and your generous wishes. I found your post very informative at the right time. Almost as soon as I started blogging, I realized that I needed to rethink how I was doing it. I found it too hard to choose from all the topics I wanted to blog about and too overwhelming to keep up with all the feeds I follow. So, I wasn’t posting.

      I determined that the only way I would post was if I planned to blog for the purpose of professionally developing, which meant I needed to plan and focus that development rather than what I would post or respond to. I might take a few weeks to get that planning sorted out, but now the blog is truly mine.

      With regard to your books, sorry, I have not read them. I will have to review them on


    • Thanks Sammie. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I wrote others on the same theme of PD and PLN that you might also wish to read (use the tags in the navigation column to the right). Have a great day, Shawn

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