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.