Can You Create Your Own Professional Development?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

Last year, I shared some thoughts about how one can improve their instructional methods. In that article, I discussed how various professional development opportunities have helped to shape me as a physical educator.

In my district, we are required to attain 18 hours of in-service credit. These hours must be completed outside of the normal school day. We can earn hours by attending conferences, workshops, and other sessions led by teachers, academic coaches, or administrators. Since I am in a decent sized district, a lot of quality in-service opportunities are offered; however, the ones for physical education are quite limited.

If you face a similar situation, you have the opportunity to do something about it. You can make the distinction between what opportunities are being offered and what opportunities you need. You then can seek out the opportunities you need to improve your instruction. If you cannot find any then I encourage you to CREATE them!

Our district allows us to create custom professional learning opportunities. These are plans for individuals who want to seek out a particular type of learning that is not currently offered. To gain approval, a proposal needs to demonstrate how a particular learning experience is aligned with one’s professional needs.

The following are some examples of self or peer initiated professional learning opportunities:

  1. K-5 PhysEd Collaboration: Some of our elementary PE teachers gather once every couple of months for a one hour in-service. One school typically hosts and shares several ideas, activities, or a skill progression/unit they teach.
  1. Videos: You can find a plethora of physical education videos online. Some may only be a couple of minutes long whereas others may be an hour long keynote address. When making a proposal to your district, you may consider finding several videos that are related to an area of growth and group them together. These videos may help you seek out more information about a particular skill/unit or help you to locate activities that allow students to apply a specified skill. You can find several keynotes from the National PE & Sport Institute (formerly the National PE Institute). You can also find various lessons and large group activities from The PE Specialist, PE Universe, PE Central, and PhysEd Games.
  1. Articles: You can find articles in professional journals such as JOPERD or Strategies. You can also choose to read various physical education blogs. You may also check out the PE Play Book (a monthly highlight of blogs) and Bright Ideas in PhysEd (a monthly list of helpful PE links). The Teacher’s Toolbox via SHAPE America’s website also contains a wealth of information and helpful documents.
  1. Digital Platforms for Group Collaboration: My colleagues in my district and I have been able to use various digital platforms to help us collaborate. These opportunities allow us to meet while sitting at our respective homes/offices. After reading a posted article, watching a video, or reviewing a SHAPE America document, each person can reflect on any new insight they gained or how the item helped to affirm their current practices. We have found success using Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Teaching Channel.
  1. Self-Refection: Last year, I wrote about how beneficial the self-reflective process can be. I have since been able to set up a 4-hour in-service based on the process outlined in that article using Google Classroom for my peers in my district.
  1. PE Field Trip: In January, my peers and I are going to go on a PE Field Trip during a teacher staff development day. We will begin by meeting at one school. The host will share with us their schedule, show us their equipment room, go over their procedures, and even walk us through a skill progression or large group activity. We will then rotate to the next host school to do the same. We hope to visit 5-6 schools during the school day.   To me, seeing another teaching space is VERY valuable.
  1. Local University: We have a good relationship with the Health & Physical Education Department at our local university. In fact, some of the professors there have hosted in-service opportunities for us during the summer.
  1. Webinars: If you are a member of SHAPE America, you have access to several FREE Webinars. All you have to do is find one that meets your needs. Non-members can access these webinars for a small fee.
  1. PE Teacher Exchange: I have the luxury of team teaching. One of my peers from another school brought forth an idea for a PE Teacher Exchange Day. On this day, I exchanged places with another PE teacher from a neighboring school. He came to my school to observe and help my colleague all while serving as my certified PE substitute for the day. I did the same at his school. It was very insightful to see another program in action. If you teach alone, you may could approach your administration to request a day of professional leave (full or half day) to go a visit another program in action.
  1. Lead & Learn: The idea behind this meeting is centered on the fact that each one of us wants to learn new ideas while also having ideas to share. I invited local PE teachers to my school for this half day in-service that we completed on the first day of summer vacation (that way the hours counted toward the new school year). In order to attend, all participants had to agree to lead one 25-minute session, organize those 25 minutes to maximize learning (e.g., share multiple activities or walk the attendees through a skill progression/unit), and provide quality/detailed handouts of the items they shared.
  1. Social Media: You can find articles, videos, and/or just connect with other physical educators on various social media platforms. There are discussion groups on Voxer and Facebook, ideas on Pinterest, and constant information flowing on Twitter. A few hashtags to check out on Twitter are #PhysEd, #espechat, #PEMatters, #ITweetPE, and #physedhacks. You can choose to follow me (@MoreThanGym) or other physical educators.

I encourage you to use any of the above ideas to approach your district in order for you to create the professional development opportunities you need!


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