Lifelong learning. It’s a trait we inspire in our students because we also strive to do this ourselves.
Each day in your classroom, you provide opportunities that spark creativity, create excitement around new ideas and encourage young minds to find a daily chance to learn. As educators, your own learning is often sacrificed for lesson planning, parent meetings, test preparation and grading to say nothing of overflowing personal lives.
Give yourself the gift of time to learn new things—both professionally and personally. You already earn your required continuing education certification units, and perhaps you work toward obtaining new certifications and advanced degrees, but don’t forget about learning for the joy of learning!
We’ve gathered practical ways for you to learn that new skill in the least amount of time and without breaking your budget.
The basics of learning online
Take a professional learning course online to investigate a new interest or to explore something you won’t necessarily teach right away, but you’ll enjoy. There are two main types of courses:
- Continuing Education Certification Units (CEUs). In addition to the professional development offered through your district, hundreds of quality, accredited Continuing Education courses are available online. Some online courses are asynchronous, meaning you work at your own pace, completing the requirements when you have time. Other web-based courses are synchronous. You log on to the course website at a specific time and the facilitator leads you and your peers through the requirements. Look for practical, peer-reviewed online CEUs to meet your professional development and continuing education requirements.
- Advanced Degrees and Certifications. Obtaining a master’s degree or doctorate, or achieving your National Board Certification opens doors. Similar to professional development courses, many universities now offer advanced degree programs online. These fully-accredited programs allow you greater choices in the program, as well as the institution. No longer are you limited to the degrees offered by your local university. A growing number of colleges and universities offer online degree programs, and several offer discounts. First decide your goal, a science certification or Master’s in School Administration, for example, and then research your options.
Recapture your childhood love of learning something new
Remember how you felt when you first learned to ride a bike? Or catch a fish? Or knit a scarf? Learning a new skill just for fun is one of the best ways to achieve personal growth and fulfillment—and it helps combat teacher stress and burnout, too!
The Internet provides limitless opportunities for discovery. Try a foreign language. Learn to play an instrument. Train yourself on a new software program. Take courses on digital photography. Although almost every new skill has a practical classroom application, learning for fun should be just that—fun.
Never stop learning
No matter how busy we are, everyone should make learning a priority. Technology allows us greater flexibility and opportunity. Try these tips next time you think “I just don’t have the time.”
- Read, read, read. Reading remains one of the best ways to learn, and now you can use technology to quickly access more information when you are waiting for an appointment, holding for a call, or even passing time during TV commercials! Try reading teacher blog sites, free e-books or e-newsletters like this one and NEA Works4Me.
- Create your “To-Learn” list. Jot down anything you want to learn for your personal life (such as song writing) or for your professional role (like lesson plans including Common Core State Standards). You can write the list in an email and keep it in your Drafts folder, add a note on your phone app or write in your calendar or planner. Defining what you want will help you more readily recognize new learning opportunities.
- Join group projects. Join an online community of like-minded learners and enjoy additional social and professional benefits. A quick Google search can help you find active local groups for a variety of activities. Educator-centric online communities like Curriki and the NEA edCommunities are great resources for sharing information, participating in topic-based discussions, and/or starting new groups in your area.
The pursuit of knowledge, whether for professional advancement or personal enjoyment, is an opportunity for us all to achieve our education goals. Never stop learning!