Professional Learning As Self Care | Hooray for Monday

October 11, 2021

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

Twenty-five years ago, my friend and mentor, the late, great Oran Sandel taught me to ask teachers: What do you have to do to prepare yourself to be in the presence of children? This question, with the deep respect it conveys for children and their teachers, has remained core to our work at Inspired Teaching over the years.

The responses this question sparks go far beyond things like thoughtful lesson planning, material gathering, or classroom preparation – though those are important, of course. The question pushes us to turn our attention beyond lesson preparation to self-preparation and to investigate the ways we engage in self-care.

It seems obvious to state that healthy teachers inspire healthy students. However, during times of stress – and the past year and a half has proven this point beyond a doubt – our needs as teachers can feel at odds with our students’ needs. The demands of teaching our students, while simultaneously striving to navigate the uncertainty around Covid safety requirements, virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning, and more, are steep. We engage in professional development so that we can be at the top of our game when we are in the presence of students. But PD often demands we do more, give more, work harder, even deplete ourselves more…in the name of being better teachers for our students.

It’s time to reframe the way we go about our own professional learning. Choosing between our needs and our students’ needs is a false dichotomy. There’s not a certain amount of energy or strength out there. Teaching is not a zero-sum game.

To have positive and lasting results, professional learning must feel supportive and uplifting to teachers. Learning meditation or breathing techniques is just as important as engaging in rigorous examinations of the latest research.

When as teachers we build creativity, critical thinking skills, or content knowledge in a joyful and challenging environment, we are better positioned to build those skills in our students. And when we learn to balance hard work and rest, we not only do our jobs better, we also serve as positive role models for our students as they learn to balance the opportunities and responsibilities in their lives.

  • School leaders: challenge yourselves to design uplifting professional learning for and with your teachers.
  • Teachers: ask yourselves, What do I need to do to prepare myself to be in the presence of learners? on a regular basis, recognizing the answer will change over time. Listen to, and respect, your own voice as you answer that question, today and every day.
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