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PD Possibilities Blog Series

Meaningful professional development allows us to be the the best educators for the children we are entrusted to teach.  And meaningful professional development also allows us to experience joy and a sense of deep satisfaction in loving the work we do. Here at Two Writing Teachers, we believe with all our hearts in issues of professional development, and this is why  we’re going to devote the rest of March to issues around professional development, both as coaches and classroom teachers.  It seems the perfect time, really, when so many teachers are linking up to participate in the March Slice of Life Story Challenge, or the SOLSC Classroom Challenge.

Here are the dates and topics we will be posting about:

March 3rd: Tara: How to Build a Personalized PD

Monday, March 7th: Betsy – Using Colleagues to Create Your Own Professional Development

Thursday, March 10th: Beth – Teaching Side-By-Side: Coaching & Classroom Visits

Monday, March 14th: Stacey – Video Case Studies: P.D. Possibilities

Thursday, March 17th: Dana – Using protocols to look at student writing

Monday, March 21st: Deb – A Personalized Day of Professional Development – Hilliard University- A Day of Professional Development led by our Teachers for Our Teachers

Thursday, March 24th: Kathleen- A Teacher’s Bill of Rights when it comes to PD

Monday, March 28th: Anna – For Teachers: How to get the most out of on-site PD

We hope you enjoy this week of posts dedicated to helping you  discover new paths to professional development.


How I built a personalized PD:

There were many things I did not know when I first began teaching, but one thing was certain: I needed to ensure that ongoing  professional development was built into my daily teaching life.  I knew that the only way I could become the teacher I so wanted to be, was to devote a portion of every day to learning about and studying practices that would stretch and grow my teaching-thinking.  The school in which I taught at the time did not offer much by way of professional development, and so I began to create a kind of personalized and self generated PD which has served me well over the years.  

Read, read, read:

We are fortunate to live in a time when brilliant educators are willing and able to research teaching practices and write about what they have learned.  I have three book cases in my home office brimming with books, and every week there seems to be a new publication announcement by an educator I respect.  These books are fabulous resources with thoughtful, ready-to-try- out-in-your-classroom ideas and examples.   I always have a stack of carefully selected PD books in the areas of reading and writing to read through throughout the school year; they bring new ideas and approaches which freshen up  my teaching practices and bring the excitement of always having something new to bring to my students through which we can all learn together.


I began blogging because of the March Slice of Life Challenge, but my blog has become something much more important to my teaching practices than I could ever have imagined.  My blog became a place to write about what I was doing in my classroom, to reflect on what was going well and what needed to be changed, and to collect ideas.  It has become, in many ways, a living journal of my teaching life, and I find that I often return to old posts to refresh my memory of launching a new unit, or a lesson that went well, so that I can tweak it and improve it once again.  

Of course, keeping a blog is an invitation into an amazing community of teachers who share the same passion and dedication to our craft.  Once in, it becomes easy to connect with other educators and begin a wonderful journey of sharing and learning together on a daily basis.  Your blogging community becomes the perfect school you imagine is out there somewhere – with every faculty member as immersed and invested in teaching as you are.  It is, I think, the single most important aspect of my personalized PD.  

Pick a few conferences, attend them regularly:

Conferences are expensive, especially because they so rarely seem to happen nearby, and not many school districts have the funds to cover all the costs.  But attending one or two conferences regularly becomes yet another way to connect with other passionate educators, learn from the likes of Kylene Beers, Bob Probst, and Vicki Vinton, and meet the authors whose books your students love.  I attended NCTE for the first time some years ago, and roomed with a member of our own Slice of Life writing community (there’s that blogging connection!), Linda Baie.  Over the course of the next few days, I connected with so many of the teachers I had been blogging with for years, and it felt as though I was with my tribe.  This is also how I felt at each of the Summer Reading and Writing Institutes and Saturday Reunions at TC.   Gatherings like these fuel our best teacher selves and help us to sustain our teaching energy.

Create a professional learning community through Twitter and Facebook:

I was slow to Twitter and Facebook, but these have become critical to my professional development.  Twitter expands my professional learning network, and allows me to “see” into the classrooms and reading habits of dedicated teachers across the world.  New books, must-read blog posts and articles, author tours and Skyping opportunities – updates for all of these and more arrive promptly through my Twitter feed and make me feel connected to a vibrant world of learning.  Facebook has allowed for a more personal way in which to communicate with teacher friends, authors, and artists who share the same world I do: the world of classrooms, libraries, and books, books, books.

Use Voxer and Google docs to fashion book clubs and writing groups:

This has been my most recent PD adventure, and it has been wonderful.  Voxer is an app that allows for texting, voice messages, and even allows you to share photographs and videos.  Your group can be as large or small as you want, and it is a great way to share ideas, and talk through new ways of approaching a lesson or teaching a new genre.  I am part of a small writing group which shares our manuscripts through Google docs, and last summer we also explored the idea of an online book club.  Both these ventures gave us many insights into the reading and writing lives of our students, and helped us to simply become better at what we bring to classroom reading and writing workshops every school day.

A few weeks ago, Slyvia Duckworth shared this beautiful graphic:

 Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.09.11 PM

What teacher would NOT want all ten must-haves?  And, how wonderful that we can now reach for these “must haves” and create on our own personalized PD opportunities with just a few easily available (and mostly free) online tools!







Tara Smith View All

I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.

14 thoughts on “PD Possibilities Blog Series Leave a comment

  1. The idea of personalized PD has been a game-changer for me. I’m involved in a personalizedPD voxer group where school leaders talk about this topic every day. Personalized PD: Flipping your Professional Development by Jason Bretzmann and Kenny Bosch is my go-to for practical ideas for administrators, coaches, and teachers. Thanks for bringing light to such an important issue!


  2. Our district just did their first PD day with an Ed camp format. The teachers came in the morning and wrote topics they’d be interested facilitating on or learning more about from someone else, on a giant dry erase board set up in the front hall. Then, in the afternoon the categories were written on the board in columns and people signed up for which workshop they wanted to attend. It was scary to put this format out there from the admin/coach vantage point because there’s always that fear “What if no one puts ideas up?”, but it turned out great! The teachers loved taking the ownership and feeling like they got to work on something meaningful to them.


  3. I love this Tara! So well done. How can we expect our students to enjoy learning if we don’t? Love learning in this community.


  4. Love that graphic on Ten Things. I think the read, read, read piece is soo important. I realize that I can only get to one or two conferences (and usually at my own expense) but teacher authored books and writers on writing have taught me much.
    When my pd partner in crime and I started meeting monthly as a writing group — to author pd — I expanded my blog. We both want the category of pd to be meaningful and helpful to teachers. And – it is time consuming to update that section. Now we have a third teacher in our group and we’re working on a book. I treasure this. My blog began as a way to write informally, then it grew as I joined the SOL community.


  5. This post is full of brilliant ideas for build PD that is tailor-made for oneself. It’s so important to build professional development that works for ourselves. I’ve always done that, but you really laid out a roadmap to helping people do it themselves.

    We’re so lucky to live in an age where we can collaborate with people from afar thanks to resources like Twitter and Voxer. It’s hard to believe these things didn’t exist a decade ago!


  6. Personalized PD is all about having “…the perfect school you imagine … – with every faculty member as immersed and invested in teaching as you are.” Creating my own learning opportunities energizes me and helps me innovate and improve. You have shared excellent ways to achieve this, and I love that you included Sylvia Duckworth’s PD tree! Thank you.


  7. For me these must haves are a part of my life. I am inextricably linked to my PLN teammates. When people ask me how I can do all these things, I always say, “Why aren’t you?” I am changed and better for all the PD that comes into my life. Thank you for stringing it all together in such a coherent manner.


  8. I have many of these aspects built into my own life. Not only am I a better teacher because of the connections I’ve made, but I am also a better person. I feel like I am a part of a much wider community. Thanks for being an integral part of my own PD community.


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