Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

His joy was contagious. I could feel his enthusiasm. I wanted to know more.

“I just loved it so much! I just want to take a week off just to process it all. I met so many amazing people. It was really special. I want to go back… Can’t wait till next year!”

A teacher friend was sharing all about this conference he just attended. In just a few, short phrases, he captured at least three must-haves for any professional learning experience.

Yet, I can’t help but wrestle with the chance that these must-haves might fade into have-nots over time. After all, how many times have educators experienced an amazing conference, a dynamic PD activity, or even just one, truly relevant, applicable, meaningful, professional learning session only to wake up a week later like it never happened?

How many times have the promising, professional learning takeaways been taken away by the lack of time, space, and opportunity? How many times have the promises been broken?

It makes me wonder…

If a fiery flash of lightning lit up the sky, but no one really saw it, reflected upon it, shared it with others, or extended the momentary brilliance well into the future, then…

Did it really happen?

Thunderstorms fascinate me. I love the entire experience…

Process the Lightning

The way the lightning lights up the sky, with a bright flash–all at once–and then it’s over.

Then, after the front passes, imminent questions linger:

Will thunder soon follow? And, if so, how loud will it be? And for how long?

Will rains blanket the ground? Will saturated seeds spring into long-term growth?

Does your ten-day forecast foreshadow time to process?

If there’s no time to process the lightning, to fully embrace its beauty, function, and full potential, then it’s just a bright flash in a big, lonely sky. It’s just a Kodak Moment with rolls of film that never get developed, forever trapped inside their canisters.

Take time to process what you have just learned. Relive the moments. Go through the pictures and videos on your phone. Scroll through all the social media posts. Jot down your major takeaways. Blog about what’s influencing your perspective. Vlog your expressions. Microcast your reflections. Reread your notes, sketchnotes, and bullet points, and add to them. Unpack each component. Think through the layers. Reorganize them in ways that are specific to you and your needs.

Will you take a day off to do this? Will you sit in a dark room for quiet reflection time? Will you go to your favorite working space away from home? Perhaps, you’ll connect with friends online or in-person over cups of coffee, breakfast, or happy hour.

Rumble With Thunder 

Now that you’ve had a chance to process, what’s next?

After such an educational high, it might be hard to keep the candle burning.

What a great opportunity to connect and reconnect with others.

The most underrated features of any professional learning experience are the opportunities to grow your network–and the value in growing with your network. We’re in the business of people.

Does your ten-week forecast foreshadow conditions to connect with people?

If there’s no space to connect, collaborate, or exchange ideas around newfound learning, then there’s little chance that professional learning seeds will blossom into fruition. If there’s no one with whom to rumble, then there’s little chance to saturate opportunities for growth.

Connect with collaborators to grow your ideas, to give and receive feedback, and to walk through practical ways to apply your ideas. With whom might you connect in your own building? Will you meet up outside of work or get together over lunchtime? With whom whom might you connect outside your building? What tools or technologies do you have in common? When will you touch base?

Professional learning is not just a two-way street. It’s a spiderweb.

Are the current conditions right for you to collaborate with others? What other resources might you need to make this happen?

Better yet, are you in a position to be a collaborator? How might you add value to your network? How might you inspire opportunities to multiply leaders and grow capacity in others?

As educators, we need each other. We need people to help us grow, and to help us grow our ideas. We need our networks to check in with us, check up on us, and keep each other in check. We need to connect and collaborate with others so that–together–we can become better for others.

Grow May Flowers

Now that you’ve had a chance to process, rumble, and reverberate, how might you take your newfound professional learning and transfer it to your craft? How will you actually grow what you know? How will April showers bring–or grow–May flowers?

Does your ten-month forecast foreshadow plans to implement?

If there’s no plan to implement your professional learning takeaways, then there’s little chance that you’ll actually transfer, apply, or extend newfound knowledge to future learning opportunities. There’s little chance that the professional learning will actually improve your practice, highlight benchmarks for continuous improvement and growth, or fuel your passions like lightning.

If there are no short-term or long-term plans to do something with your professional learning, then it becomes a momentary destination, a finish-line product, and a fading memory. It was just a flash of lightning.

It makes me wonder…

How might we transform our professional learning experiences into lifelong journeys, starting-line processes, and ongoing opportunities? How do we flash the lightning, rumble with thunder, and grow May flowers… together?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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