Creating a plan to further your professional development is always a good idea. Whether or not life or other obligations gets in the way, having a plan in place provides you with a framework and map to reach your goals. Keeping this in mind, here’s part two of the goal setting series I wrote with tips I think online teachers may find useful for creating their personal professional development plan.
• Teach your students to lead and allow an open forum for engagement
Thinking of your class as a forum for your students might terrify you at first, like a car spinning out of control because you lost control of the wheel. However, one source indicates that giving some control to the students is positive for the classroom environment, “giving your students some control of how they learn gives [them] a sense of confidence and pride in their work. It also gives them a sense of purpose and motivation.”1 Allowing your students to take the reigns will teach them how to be leaders and create a space for positive interaction, risk-taking, and creativity with their classmates. For example, you might ask the most outgoing student to pretend he/she is the teacher and ask questions related to the material. Or you might ask Student A to design some clothes with the annotate feature and have Student B pretend to be a shopper, and the students can take the reigns as they act out the imaginary scenario. The goal is to make the students feel as if they have some control over the course materials and that their voice and interests matter.
• Develop a plan for keeping yourself organized
Not only will organization prevent teacher burnout, but it will also help you improve your classroom management. Developing your organizational skills will give you more time for leisure and lesson preparation when you do not have to continually fix teaching disasters. I use the app Sticky Notes to keep organized. The students are not able to see this, and I can type up a list of questions, instructions, or notes to references while I teach. Before I used Sticky Notes, I found myself dreading class because I could not keep all the questions straight, or I ran too quickly through a 50-minute lesson with 25 minutes left and absolutely nothing to say. A well-built organizational plan can save you a lot of grief and anxiety. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous Google apps to help with organization as well as other resources such as Evernote, Dropbox, or Sticky Notes. You might also check out clutterfreeclassroom.blogspot.com. You might also consider taking a course in Classroom Management, which will help you maintain order in class and stay organized so the class structure may flow more naturally with less troubleshooting.
• Get the parents involved in a collaborative learning style
You will likely encounter students who are shy or struggle with English and often hold back in class because they are afraid of failing. For these students, it is especially important to get the parents involved and collaborating with their child in the classroom. You might try having a family work on a particular project like making a family-tree or designing a dream house, or you might invite parents to come to a class relating to them. For example, you might have a “job class” where you have students introduce their parents and have a conversation about the parent’s job. Or you might have a class about family and have the student introduce their parent and let the other students ask the parents questions like “What is your job?” “What is your favorite color.” “What are your hobbies?” You might also have parents and students compete against each other in bingo or share a favorite recipe or have a grandparent share a funny story with the class. The goal is to set aside time to develop a professional plan that allows for parent-student collaboration in the classroom online and offline.
• Consider becoming a National Board Certified Teacher
This certification is more than just another accomplishment to add to your CV. You will improve your teaching skills immensely as well as developing new strategies and gaining useful knowledge. Jennifer Gonzalez notes, “If you are based in the U.S. and want to learn more, start by reading my post about why getting National Board Certification is worth it (Conquering National Board Certification, and why it’s totally worth it).”2
• Expand your horizons!
In conclusion, no matter how long or how little you have been teaching, there is always room for growth and expansion—even beyond the online classroom! If you have the time and resources, you might try working abroad as an exchange teacher (when the global pandemic has passed). Not only will this add to your impressive portfolio, but you will also gain valuable experiences related to a different culture and connect more closely with your students. Working in a physical classroom will improve your vocal ability as well as your face-to-face interaction with students. Being able to interact with students physically rather than online will help you better relate to your students and stimulate the learning process with movement-oriented activities.
You might also consider attending professional development seminars, conferences, symposiums, webinars, or courses. Attending these annual events can help you adopt new methods, improve your teaching techniques, and continually update and challenge your long-term goals. You will also collaborate and gain valuable information from other teachers with varying experiences and expertise.
Remember, your goal must always be to strive for self-improvement and to be a life-long learner who tries new methods and contributes to a community of learners, equipping them with the knowledge to help them succeed in the future.
Citations for Smart Goal Setting for Online Teachers: Part Two
1 Cox, J. (2019, October 23). A Teacher’s Professional Development Goals. Retrieved from https://www.teachhub.com/teacher-professional-development-goals
2 Gonzalez, J. (2018, September 24). Goal-Setting for Teachers: 8 Paths for Self-Improvement. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/goal-setting-for-teachers/
Laura Johnson, a Kentucky native, is a graduate of Asbury University in Wilmore, KY, and holds a bachelor’s degree in History with a strong background in French and Latin. She is currently working on her master’s degree in Medieval Studies at the University of Wales Trinity St. David with a focus on Medieval history and literature. She is a member of the Phi Alpha Theta National History Honor Society and the Medieval Society and Classics Society at Lampeter, Wales. She holds a TESOL certificate and has experience teaching with ALO7.
Laura believes in the timeless value of literature as a voice for the past, present, and future. In her spare time, she enjoys reading folktales from around the world and dabbling in Russian and Eastern Studies. Her hobbies include creative writing (fiction and poetry), drawing, illustration, photography and learning new languages. She is an advocate for higher education and believes in the cultural preservation of folklore and history. Her pets include a rambunctious Carolina dog named Niki and a positively perfect cat name Sylvester.