I am always engaged in trying to improve my knowledge, skills and abilities as a teacher. I don’t want to be just another good teacher, or an above average teacher, or even an excellent teacher.
I want to be the kind of teacher that reaches the outer limits of my full human potential as a teacher, and then push the boundaries beyond my own expectations of excellence.
Now, I know how that sounds.
Ambitious, and maybe even a bit delusional, so let me explain the concept I’m referring to. 🙂
For example, when I was in high school, the greatest distance I ever ran at any one time was one mile (approximately 1500 meters). My concept of my personal limitations, my boundaries, was 1500 meters.
Once I became a soldier, I soon learned that my personal limitations were not 1500 meters. It became two miles, three miles, five miles, ten miles, and on and on until I successfully completed a marathon, 26.2 miles (42 kilometers).
I learned that my barriers were mental ones. If I set a goal, and then did the requisite work to achieve those goals, I succeeded in establishing new personal boundaries.
Even after achieving the marathon, I sought out new challenges, until I completed the triathlon (running, swimming, and cycling).
The lesson I learned is a simple one: Set big goals and take tiny steps.
If you are persistent, you will reach any goal.
Therefore, reaching my potential as a teacher involves the same kind of attitude toward goal achievement. Big goals, tiny steps, and persistence: these three are the key.
What is required for me to be successful in achieving my personal goals as a teacher?
Answer: continuous professional development.
What is Continuous Professional Development (CPD)?
CPD: “In the context of the IB, professional development can be viewed as an ongoing commitment of our educators to be critical, self-reflective practitioners. This encourages a culture of lifelong learning and continuous improvement.” (Could You Be IB?)
Jeffrey Beard, Director General of the IB, had this to say about the training and professional development of teachers in the IB context:
(Quote) “Teachers are the key to the whole program.
All the international studies of top educational systems (Finland, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong) have shown us that the teacher is what makes the difference.
The successful countries take their approach to teaching very seriously.
They elevate the importance of teachers.
They screen candidates for suitability before they go to university in contrast to the US system and many other countries.
The top countries accept fewer teachers and they are put more resources behind each teacher along the way.
They treat teaching as a highly respected profession.
Once teacher pre-service training is complete, ongoing professional development of the teacher is also very important.
You see more mentoring in the classroom.
You see more feedback in the classroom.
That doesn’t happen in many other countries, where teachers come out of school and that may be the last formal training they have.
The IB approach to professional development is a pedagogy that’s based on a constructivist understanding of how students learn.
It’s a theory of cognition, widely used and accepted, which asserts that knowledge is not passively learned but actively built.
It recognizes the importance of engaging and challenging learners in order to improve their understanding and comprehension.
To become an IB school, all teachers must complete our category one training, which is built around these principles.
Later on, the experienced IB teacher may attend a category two workshop, which provides more in-depth training in areas like internal assessment and research.
Finally, the master IB teacher may go on to attend one of over 100 category three workshops which are aimed at refining a teacher’s skill in his chosen field.
I am not aware of any other program that offers a continuum of professional development that allows teachers to develop skills and then enhance those skills over a period of years.
Our online curriculum center also allows these same IB teachers to network globally, where they can share with other teachers what they are doing and find out what is working and what is not.
So it’s all very synergistic and you can see the effectiveness in terms of student performance“.
(end of quote)
In my eleven (11) years of teaching, I have not found a better concept of professional development for teachers than the one articulated above. It is worthy of individual teachers, schools and entire countries.
CPD in the IB context, as described above, resonates thoroughly with my own views of what excellent CPD looks like, both in theory and in practice.
I recommend it without reservation. It should be replicated where possible and adapted where necessary. It is viable for all, from the individual, reflective practitioner to the school level, to the national level and even internationally.
Recently, I was a Co-Founder and Co-Organizer of EdCamp Santiago 2012, which had the distinction of being the first edcamp in Chile and the first edcamp in South America.
The edcamp provided professional development for educators from Chile (EdCamp Santiago) and Canada (Edcamp Delta). You have individuals at various stages in their career sharing what works in the classroom, sharing best practices with peers, which mirrors the fundamental principle of peer learning embodied in the IB CPD model.
Although there are many obstacles to participation in CPD, we as educators must first make the committment to attaining personal excellence.
Having a clear understanding about what excellent professional development looks like, we are more likely to be successful in our efforts to become the best teacher we can become.