As professional educators it is our obligation to our craft to continue to develop our toolbox of skills as the world our audience lives in changes. By meeting our students where they are at…in their world…we are required as teachers to reflect on creative strategies that allow our students to grow academically during their formation at Rockhurst. Professional Development is a key aspect of our careers as teachers and is also an crucial component of STEAM.
When I was asked to coach the swim team back in ’99, I had no experience in the sport since I played baseball growing up. I knew how I wanted to structure the program, what it should be built around, and what its mission and vision should be, but I needed to learn the techniques of the sport itself. I listened to as many coaches as I could and soaked up all the information they would talk about. I attended many conferences and clinics around the country in pursuit of my certification, all the while keeping the program that I wanted to build in mind. As I reflect back on that time of my life, I feel the key that led to the success of many ideas that we started was that I never took another coach’s entire program, packet, or idea and inserted it into our program; instead I took bits and pieces of ideas that I felt would work within the context of a high school swim and dive program at a Jesuit High School. What was critical to me was that the identity of the program reflect the identity of the Rockhurst Community and all new ideas had to work within that context. There were many good ideas that I did not incorporate because I knew they would not be successful in the context of what our team was going to become.
I feel that the development of my coaching career mirrored what we as colleagues are working on now. Each of us needs to look to professional organizations for resources and see what other professionals around the country are doing in their classes. With the use of social media, sharing of ideas, projects, labs, and files is easier than ever. Professional organizations are a treasure trove of concepts and ideas and can give you an idea about what makes the most successful teachers around the county so effective. However, remember that you cannot utilize all of what you find; you need to translate the idea into a concept that would work in your classroom.
We are extremely fortunate in the sciences to have a strong professional organization, the NSTA. The NSTA is a wealth of information for STEAM principles and values, they print award winning books on strategies and ideas, and their conferences are very beneficial. The NSTA also created a network of teachers via email based upon the science they teach, so a biology teacher who has joined the NSTA has the ability to ask a question to thousands of other biology teachers across the country. The number of resources and files shared each day on the NSTA network are too numerous to count. This network is an invaluable tool that has helped shape new ideas I have utilized in my classroom.
As Ignatian Educators we model our lives for our students and if we ask our students to be “open to growth”, we need to do the same. Seeking professional development is not a task just for young teachers, but one for all Ignatian Educators.