Are You Getting the Most Out of Professional Development?

This was a fun week for me because I was able to attend two different professional development conferences (SWOW and our annual accreditation meeting). And yes, I did say fun and professional development in the same sentence! The trick is to find the PD opportunities that will make the biggest impact in your classroom and for your students. But it’s not always about the PD session topic— it’s also about the other conference attendees. Here’s a trick I learned that may work for you: after introducing yourself to someone in the room, ask two questions— What do you do? and What’s working in your classroom for you right now?

PD Session

“Things That Suck” breakout session at SWOW 2013.

By asking these two questions, you’ll be able to learn so much! From cool instructional apps to classroom management procedures, effective teachers are often eager to share all of the cool things they have going on. As you listen, take notes, writing down the key ideas and links to check out. By the end of the conference, you’ll have an awesome list of ideas, you will have met some great people, and you will leave fired up and ready for the next day of school. This is how you make PD fun.

Here are a few other PD tips I’ve picked up along the way:

  • Go with a buddy but don’t attend the same sessions. Split up, meet new people, learn new ideas, and then compare notes at the end.
  • Present a session. You’ll often get a registration discount (half or full), you get twice the PD hours (1 hour presentation = 2 hours PD), and you’ll make it easier for conference attendees to start a conversation with you. Feel uneasy about presenting? Tag-team it with a colleague.
  • You don’t have to follow the conference schedule. Set up your own smaller meetings with other conference attendees. Often times these impromptu meetings end up being the most beneficial.
  • Find a note-taking system that works for you. After the conference, spend some time reviewing your notes and filing them away for future reference.
  • Remember that a conference is about the people not the sessions.
  • Stick around until the end. Several attendees will leave early which improves your chances of winning a door prize.
  • If you select PD opportunities based on how many PD hours you’ll receive, you won’t truly benefit.
  • Twitter is a great way to grow professionally. You won’t get official PD hours, but you’ll learn so much.
  • Work to find great conferences. I’m not aware of a database listing every excellent PD opportunity, but I am aware of the speakers on the circuit. Email them to find out which conferences are the best. Also, when you’re at a conference, ask other attendees what conferences they recommend. If you look hard enough, you’ll find what you want.
  • Share what you’ve learned. When you hear something great, share it with other teachers (or the entire faculty) when you return. Spread the wealth.

Professional development should be fun, engaging, and make you more excited about teaching than you were before the conference started. These tips may help you make the most of your next opportunity.


Have another PD idea to share? Post it below.

Three Ways to Use Evernote Reminders (that you may not have considered)

Since its recent update, Evernote has added many great features like integrating Skitch into Evernote, launching the market, and adding a presentation mode. However, my favorite addition (and the one that’s been missing for way too long!) is the reminder feature.

How does it work? It’s simple. By clicking the reminder icon (alarm clock) on any note, you can set a specific date and time for that note to be emailed to you. This is huge for project deadlines, upcoming events (like birthdays or anniversaries), and trip itineraries, but let me give you three reminder ideas you may not have considered.


1. Reading Reflections:  Before I ever knew what it was called, I kept a commonplace book (a central location for book quotations, ideas, and reading notes). As often as I read on my Kindle, Evernote has become the perfect place to keep my commonplace book. When I read, I take my time highlighting key ideas, writing notes, and asking questions, and once I finish a book, I consider myself 80% finished because I still need to transfer my ideas and notable quotations to Evernote (my commonplace book). Thanks to Evernote reminders, I now set a reminder about 1-3 months in the future and receive an email or notification to review my book notes with a fresh perspective.


Evernote Reminder SS

2. Keeping up with documentation. As a school administrator, I have the supreme joy of finding substitute teachers when needed. For planned absences, our teachers complete a leave request form stating the date and nature of the absence. Once the request is approved, we file the form in a giant 3-ring binder. However, before it’s filed, I scan the request form with my ScanSnap scanner, send the scan to my “Teacher Documentation/Forms” Evernote notebook, tag the note with the teacher’s last name, and set a reminder for the day before the planned absence. When the time comes, I receive an email and notification showing me the exact form I scanned with the specific class periods needed and I’m able to verify we are prepared to cover the absence the next day. You may not be a school administrator, but I’d bet you can find a similar use to help you with day-to-day operations (like keeping up with receipts, follow-up calls, trip itineraries, etc.).


3. Emails to Future Me. Before Evernote reminders, I’ve used a cool site called which is really simple:  you write an email to yourself in the future and select a date you want to receive it (like six months from now), and six months later you receive an email from yourself. Weird, I know– but really helpful. I’ve replaced using FutureMe with Evernote reminders. For example, during the first week of in-service this year (my first as an administrator), I kept a note of ideas for next year and set a reminder for July 15, 2014. When July 15 rolls around next year, I’ll be just gearing up for back-to-school events and I’ll receive an email reminder to check out my notes from this past year. I have several reminders set for 2014 already!


The beauty of Evernote is that everyone can make it work perfectly for them. These three Evernote reminder uses have helped me be more productive, and I’d love to hear how Evernote reminders are working for you! Just leave a comment below.