By Teachers, For Teachers
Politics, research, methodology, philosophy, creative ideas … where do teachers go to get their information about what’s coming down the pipeline?
How do science teachers ensure their information is in line with the latest research developments? How do elementary school teachers learn the best approaches to instructing students towards their state’s standards? How does a teacher who has “Been there, done that” update her instructional methods and use classroom management to keep things creative?
Although many administrators do their best to keep teachers up to speed on all the most important information, teachers certainly can’t rely on administrators for everything. For one, administrators themselves are challenged to keep up with the latest and greatest in the broader educational context. For another, despite the quality of an administrator’s communication, there’s just no way an administrator can ensure they provide each individual teacher with everything.
At some point, teachers need to use classroom management to take it upon themselves to dig in and find the information that’s most relevant to themselves and their students. So what are the easiest ways they can go about doing that?
Here are some suggestions.
Using social media as a professional allows you to completely customize what you see. You don’t have to sift through layer after layer of unnecessary junk, just to hope you’ll come across that needle in the haystack. Twitter and Pinterest are my preferred social media venues because they present opportunities to quickly locate precise, pertinent information.
Consider who you’ll “Follow” or what you’d like to “Search” for on these platforms. You might consider following preferred news outlets, education leaders, fellow teachers, educational organizations (like TeachHUB,com!), or elements specific to your subject. When it suits you, look through recent tweets or pins and spend time examining the links and ideas you like. When it doesn’t suit you, just ignore. The customizability of social media to your schedule and preferences makes it the ideal tool for teachers to harness for staying informed.
Much like social media, blogs are great places for teachers to gather ideas about education. Individuals at all levels of education are sharing their experiences, ideas, techniques, and research – why not plug yourself into these?
Blogs are ideal places where teachers can read the extended, explained thoughts of others. Whether you’re looking for practical ideas or materials, or loftier treatments of educational philosophy, you again can customize what blogs you see and when.
Often you have the opportunity to “Subscribe” to a blog, which means you can get an e-mail update when the next post is available. Or you can combine blogs with social media, following your favorite bloggers on Twitter, for example, and learning from there about their latest updates.
Podcasts are like your own personalized audiobooks or radio stations. You can shop through the thousands of podcasts out there to find the ones perfectly suited for your interests. These might be ideal for teachers who feel like they don’t have a lot of time. All you have to do is turn on the podcast and let it do all the work while you just listen.
Teachers often like to listen to podcasts on their commutes to and from school or even when they’re laying in bed before going to sleep! Podcasts can be about education specifically, or teachers can just educate themselves by finding a topic they’re personally interested in.
Whichever specific subject or age range you teach, you or your department can subscribe to the latest journal publications. These journals can often be accessed via print copy or digital media, and offer insights into the most recent research and perspective relevant to your field or to education in general.
You might also consider “Open access education journals” – free education journals available in full-text online. Yes, I said “Free.” There are a surprising number of these available. Consider checking out this list from OnlineCollege.org, and commit to reading just one article a day for a week!
The superintendent of education in most states publishes a weekly letter. If you look up your state’s education department, you can subscribe to this weekly communication and see what your state education leaders are working on. I can subscribe to my Illinois superintendent’s weekly message right here.
The federal Department of Education offers something similar, with a host of online education resources as well as an opportunity to subscribe to weekly or even daily newsletters. Stay in tune with the Department of Education here!
Or maybe you’re thinking, “Forget about all these journals and newsletters, and all these digital texts. Just give me a book!” There’s no shortage of books about education. If you haven’t done so in a while, take yourself for a trip to your local bookstore – many have “Education” sections with materials specifically for teachers! Amazon, of course, is a fantastic source for shopping for education books as well, as it can tell you what’s popular, what’s related to your purchases, and what people are saying about any given book.
If you’re really feeling ambitious, after you’ve read a few education books you’ve found to be especially beneficial, share them with your colleagues and form your own faculty book club!
We’ll end with the obvious-but-underutilized way of staying inform: Talk to other teachers. Your building is full of people who share your experiences and concerns. Instead of feeling like you need to bury your head in a website or a book, lift it up and spend time talking to peers. You’ll be surprised how well-informed you’ll stay just by having conversations with the teachers right around you.
Take time during your mornings and afternoons to touch base with colleagues, and make sure that – at least occasionally – you eat lunch with your peers!
There’s no right or wrong way to stay informed as a teacher. The only “Wrong” would be to not stay up-to-date at all! Whatever resource you choose, make sure it’s one that helps plug you into the ideas, news, and resources that help you continue to refine your craft and stay on the cutting edge of education.
We can’t rely on districts and administrators to “Tell us what we need to know” anymore. There’s just too much to know, and it’s too easy to customize our learning. As our world is constantly changing, it’s important to have educators who are aware of these changes and able to help their students develop the skills to successfully navigate through their world as well.
How do you stay informed as a teacher? Tell our TeachHUB.com community all about it in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.