Tag Archives: professional development

Professional Development: It Works!

Professional Development: It Works! {New Faculty}

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As I begin this post, I’m taking a break from a three day long professional development bootcamp that’s offered by my employer. It’s called “Course Design Institute” and is three solid days of nothing but working on your classes.

I’m big on three things:

  • time
  • space
  • permission

Why? This workshop gives me all of those things AND snacks! Professional development doesn’t have to be expensive or hard. Many young faculty think they don’t have time or it won’t be productive but take it from me: setting aside three days to work on my classes is a rare gift that I wouldn’t carve out for myself. I like being able to come to a location, listen to the facilitator, and then have blocks of time to do nothing but work. No one coming by my office. No interruptions of any kind, in fact, almost no one knows where I am. It’s such a great set up that coffee and snacks are provided and so is lunch each day if I want it. It has removed all distractions and given me every creature comfort I could possibly want so I can concentrate on my sole mission: SYLLABI

I planned ahead and even signed up for a Spanish course this fall. It’s once per week, over lunch, and is not going to be a time suck. My university and very generous employer offer this to the faculty on a first-come-first-serve basis and I was super excited to get into the class. It’s an hour I can spare. I’m investing in myself, it’s adding to my CV and it will be a beneficial skill to have.

As you begin a new academic year, take a few minutes and invest in yourself. Professionally speaking, some extra development can be useful to build your skill set, meet new colleagues, and doesn’t have to be expensive or painful.

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Empowering Others to Empower Ourselves

Empower Others to Empower Myself {New Faculty}

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I’m fool of feel good vibes and warm fuzzies up in here lately. I think it’s because I finally did all of my laundry and didn’t have to repack a suitcase within 72 hours of returning from a trip. Or it’s from the EIGHT solid hours of sleep I got last night. Whatever the reason, I’d like to talk about how we empower others and in return, we become empowered.

My prior work in STEM was really satisfying to me. It fit all of the niches of my brain and I’ll be honest here: I was pretty damn good at it. It had all of my favorite things (except melted cheese): teachers, kids, STEM, free education for those kids, free professional development for those teachers, paying those teachers, undergrad/grad research opportunities, a balanced spreadsheet (thank you) more than 90% of the time, and since I’m all warm and fuzzy today: it had me working with some of the best folks I know.

One of my many teachers bloomed from a math teacher to a bad-ass STEM guru. She really took off with the material we provided. She made it her own. She stumbled, she fell, but she always asked for help without feeling bad. And I was there to catch her. In return, she offered to return the favor whenever I asked, allowing me and my team into her school, into her life, and interrupting it more than we probably should have.

Yes, this was really that positive of a relationship. All those teachers and students loved me and I love them still.

I nominated this teacher for a prestigious math and science award last year. It’s so fancy she might win a trip to the White House, meet the president himself (hate him all you want, he’s still the guy in charge & you’d like to brag you met him too), and win a boatload of money for herself and her school. This teacher is so humble. She is so generous. She is so talented. But she forgot what a bad ass she is. She sent me a photo over the weekend of her receiving her STATE FINALIST award (what??) and said, “there were so many great teachers there, it was an honor.”

EXCUSE ME?

I replied, “you ARE one of those great teachers, don’t ever forget that!”

She replied, “you’re an angel.”

Little does she know that by spending time in her school, with her kids, and engrossed in her community, she empowered me.

You read that right: SHE EMPOWERS ME.

Every day.

Someone once asked me why I like doing what I do. It was a great question. My final answer:

“I like the underdog. I was born an underdog but I feel as though people invested in me every step of the way. When I invest in people and commit to them through research and building their capacity, I have yet to lose. I always win. When you invest in people, you will usually always win.”

Whether it’s supporting an amazing group of teachers, nurturing a struggling grad student, or taking time to listen to a trusted colleague, investing in people usually nets you more wins than losses.

I hope this teacher wins. Not just to hang a plaque on her wall, but to empower her. To show her what a great talent she is. To show her that she is one of the best educators in our country. To give her struggling county some of the recognition it deserves. To show that women can teach and raise our children, but in many cultures, they continue to be marginalized.

Every time I invest in people, I always win. I joke with my dad that the warm feelings won’t pay the electric bill, but I don’t need any heat today, I’m radiating sunshine for her and everything she represents.

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Investing in Yourself: Additional Training & Professional Development

Professional Development {New Faculty}

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I have taken full advantage of professional development since joining faculty. Even in my old position, there was very little I would say “no” to in terms of building and expanding my skill set. I know it can be a trap to say “yes” to too much, but when reflecting on it and strategically thinking about where I wanted to go professionally, I chose to take the attitude of “participate, don’t anticipate” and it’s paying off. I had always wanted to learn more about federal grants and sitting on panels for several years in a row really paid off. I had wanted to learn about how I could develop as a faculty and have been participating in a year long faculty development institute at my university. I was encouraged by my department head to get trained in KAI and recently finished training to facilitate KAI for organizations.

See the goal, make it happen.

Not all of the opportunities I’ve had cost me money, some have netted me some cash. I’ve had to agree to participate in research as a result, but I’m a researcher so I whole heartedly see why we need to do this. Building my own skill set has been a rewarding experience for me thus far in the young faculty member game and I’m glad that I said, “yes” several years ago to myself to get into these things. Each has been useful in a different way and each continues to serve me on many levels.

There’s a few things that I’ve had to work through to get myself developed professionally:

Buy in from my superiors. I have to say, I have an extremely supporting department head. I cannot say enough positive things about his attitude toward my development as a young faculty member. And no, I’m not saying that because this is on the internet. I’m saying it because it’s true. Hands down. He recently asked me during my annual review, “where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?” That kind of support is valued, appreciated, and amazing. I know that not all of my peers will have this kind of unwavering support and I’m grateful for it.

Support from my peers. My colleagues within the department and outside of it are more than supportive. Whether it’s filling on a class to guest lecture, excusing me from meetings knowing I’m doing this other “thing” or simply asking, “how did KAI go?” it means the world to know that they care enough to ask, cover, or excuse me. I’m not home watching TV, I’m working and I know I would reciprocate for them as well.

Time. In our society of “the busy contest” I don’t have any more or any less time than the next person. However, I give myself the gift of time to do these things. No matter what is getting in the way, I do my best to block my time and try to plan ahead. Life happens, but giving myself permission to spend four days reviewing grants or five days being trained or two hours on a day when grades are due getting some development is worth it later.

It’s a long-term investment. Sometimes, because I’m impatient, I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I get ahead of myself and then I forget that spending a year in a program won’t pay off tomorrow, it might take time to see the effect. I might teach a course next year where I implement what I learned. My ROI is slow on some of the things I do but it is there. I just have to be patient.

Money. Some of my development has been 100% free and evens comes with snacks. Faculty professional development on my campus is pretty good. A few hours each month, a little homework, and a lot of great relationships have been free to me. My department supports this venture. Other things, like trainings, have cost money that I was asked to attend and therefore paid. Research PD has paid me in the end. It has actually evened itself out financially. Sometimes you gotta front some cash, but you always get it back.

In the end, spending some time and resources on professional development can be 100% worth it. I have more positive things to say than negative things on my experiences thus far. There are times that I’m the worst student you ever met (they say teachers make the worst students) and have absolutely no patience to sit for another hour at something, but I’m finding that when my ass is numb, my brain is usually full of good stuff.

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