Saturday, April 2, 2016

Bloom and Grow!

By Vicki Bechard
LFKS Secretary

Spring is officially here.  Flowering trees are blooming while others are leafing out; the grass is greening and has perhaps already had its first mowing of the season; tulips and daffodils are in full bloom.  Our senses have been awakened by the new colors of spring that chase away the dull gray of winter.  Days are warmer as the sun shines longer, and spring rains cleanse away the pollen-laden air.  My husband is getting the yard in shape and preparing to plant his annual garden.  Spring reminds us that change is good and new growth makes our world brighter and more hopeful.

In schools, we are often tired at this time of year, so spring may equate to the restlessness of spring fever, annual testing (and the subsequent stress that brings), and the uncertainty that legislative battles have given us in recent years.  But spring also means outside recess, measuring progress, and celebrating the end of another year of learning, graduations, and other student accomplishments.  It is a time for us to be proud of where we’ve been and use that reflection to look ahead to what will be.  It is both our charge and our challenge to look beyond those things that weigh us down and find ways to think and act hopefully and with the future in mind.

How are you blooming and growing?  What new learning are you experiencing now, or are planning to undertake in the next couple of months?  As educators, we want to be continuous learners so that we can offer our students the best experiences that lead them to becoming successful adults.  There are many ways to learn.  No longer must you wait for your school to bring in a presenter, send you to a conference, or find a workshop to attend.  While these might be valuable learning experiences, they aren't the only options.  In addition to the many publications available in print, there are webinars, podcasts, twitter chats, and other networking opportunities available to provide you with new ways to do something familiar, or learn new skills and/or strategies.  You have a wealth of knowledge available to you in your own school.  Collaborating with colleagues is some of the best professional learning you can get!  Giving and receiving feedback offers you many new ideas and things to consider.  This can come from colleagues, supervisors, and even students!  Taking time to reflect is important as you seek to bloom and grow.

Professional learning (not to be confused with the dreaded “staff development” memory so many have) is about personal growth in the profession you have chosen.  It is about finding meaningful content and formats that will allow you to experience the learning as you seek to promote and provide excellent teaching and learning every day.  There are several secrets to achieving successful professional learning.  Let me share a few:
  1. Understanding the “Why” – Why is this initiative/skill/learning important to me, the school, or the students?  What is the benefit?  This often is the key (motivation) that one needs to become open to the new learning.
  2. How will I learn these new skills and/or knowledge?  *Learning Design is a key to successful professional learning experiences.  Too often we settle for “one size fits all” or the traditional “sit and get.”  These are easier to manage, but far too often less than satisfying or effective in achieving the goal.
  3. *Effective implementation:  The old saying “if you don’t use it you’ll lose it” definitely applies to the new learning we undertake.  Create a plan of action; get started on USING what you have learned as soon as possible.  Follow up and support are keys to successful implementation as is receiving meaningful and timely feedback. 
You might have seen this saying on plaques or birthday cards:  “Age is inevitable but growth is optional.”  In education, growth cannot be optional if we are to provide the best education possible for our students.  We can bloom or we can wither and die.  Experience is only valuable if we use it to better our future.  You can choose to bloom and grow by actively engaging in your own professional learning experiences, intentionally seeking feedback, and participating collaborative conversations.  You can choose to help others bloom and grow through meaningful dialogue, sharing what you've learned, planning effective professional learning experiences, and/or providing feedback.  

Learning Forward Kansas is here to support you in this journey!  Let us know how we can help or share your experiences with us as you choose excellent professional learning so that everyone can bloom and grow!

*Click on the link to find more information about the Standards of Professional Learning.


  1. SOOOO true...and if we are to celebrate and grow our chosen profession...and it is a profession!....we must be willing to reach out and collaborate around learning and implementing what we know to be good teaching. That may be learning something new...or doing something that we know is good...but just needs to be "pruned" to bloom again.

  2. Well said Vicki! Growth is so important in every aspect of our lives. It is what makes each day meaningful and should be reflected in our actions. We can not expected students to learn if we ourselves are not learning right along with them and providing them the tools they need to meet today's world.