All (well, some of what) I needed to know about Professional Learning I learned from my Mom

110810-N-UB993-034My mother fell last week in her apartment by her most beloved piece of furniture, the couch.  When I went in to check in on her, she was still on the ground, lying on her side. She was awake, blinking, and a little out of sorts but thankfully, not hurt.

When I asked her why she was laying on the ground, she couldn’t really answer me.

The backstory is that she has been living on her own for about ten years since my father passed away. She occupies herself with taking care of her cat, Spunky, and watching old television shows.

So when I saw her laying there, many thoughts went through my head. What if she broke her leg? She can’t possibly live by herself anymore! Do I call an ambulance now? What I didn’t mention was that everyone was in a frenzy about the weather. The dire weather predictions told us that we were going to get a foot of snow with high winds – blizzard conditions. Thankfully, the storm changed at the last minute that night and we received about 3 inches of snow.  But I didn’t know that as my mother deposited herself back onto the couch and told me that she was FINE and that I didn’t need to do anything more for her.

Well, I didn’t take her word for it and I dialed 911. She was taken to the nearby hospital and evaluated. Good news was that she didn’t break anything or have a head injury. But the prognosis was that she needed physical therapy to regain some of her strength from not walking enough in her apartment.

So what does that have to do with Professional Learning?

When you don’t stretch yourself, you can become rusty and atrophied

Sometimes when I speak to staff about learning new technology or skills, I often hear, “I don’t have the time”. While every person’s situation is different, I often wonder,”How can you NOT have the time to nurture yourself and grow?”  After all, I work with educators who encourage students to learn daily!

About a week later, she was admitted to a nursing home to get physical therapy. I had the opportunity to attend one of her first PT sessions with her.

Start small, think big

My mother has definite goals for her physical therapy. She eventually wants to walk with minimal supports (i.e. no wheelchair!) up a flight of stairs!  Without those goals, it would be tough to plan her physical therapy exercises. As educators, we need to set goals for ourselves for our learning.

And just like the physical therapist doesn’t have the patient going up stairs on the first day, we can start small with our learning. There’s no shame in it!

Taking that first step is the hardest

My mother had some trepidation about the exercises in her first session. But she took the chances and tried them!  They become a little easier as she went.

Taking that first step in investing in your professional learning may be a little scary at first. But it is so worth it!

Lean on your coach if you need some support

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful physical therapists at the nursing home. They are trained professionals that know how to diagnose the patients adeptly and accurately. They understand the necessary exercises needed to build up the patient so they may advance to the next level. And they are there to catch my mother if she falls.

If you have a technology or curriculum coach to help you, please make use of them! They are there to help you through the transformation in your classroom. And they are there to catch you if you fall.  If you don’t have a coach available, contact your principal or supervisor to find out who can help you.

Your PLN (Personal Learning Network) is also a source of support. Check out how to start your own PLN here. I encourage every professional on the planet to create their own PLN!

Also, I want to put a plug in for a book about professional learning that a colleague of mine put out just last month!

Leading Professional Learning: Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers by @Thomascmurray and @Jeff_Zoul.

I highly recommend it for anyone interested in making professional learning more meaningful in your school or district.

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