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From professional to personal development: Finding PD when you live in a PD desert

Updated: Jul 12, 2022

Jenna Rodgers

Hance Community School,

Lake County Office of Education

I recently watched Won’t You be My Neighbor?, a heartful documentary that follows the life of Mister Fred Rogers before and after the Neighborhood. I walked away feeling the seeds he planted so many years ago and I relearned the idea of deep and simple. Whenever I endeavor to do my best and as I plan for personal and professional growth, I need to remember this message from Mister Rogers: deep and simple. For me, this means developing routines that are easy to maintain, but provide me with opportunities for quality personal and professional development.

Developing a personal routine

Recently, I re-evaluated the way I was spending my time in the morning and the evening. I didn’t want to work 24 hours a day but being a part of my online communities invigorates me. If you decide that you’re ready to step into the next level of your teaching, and really, your life, then you can invest the time in building a routine that is going to set you up for success. I always add a touch of pampering to the tasks I know I can quickly ignore, and a small reward.

For example, my writing time is from 4:45-5:45 am every day. I don’t always spend that time writing notes for my Facebook page, sometimes I’m using it to work on a young adult novel I have dreams of publishing one day. I sit in my favorite chair, I put on background music, light a candle, and sip tea. This feels like a luxury, but it brings me into the present so that I can experience the task instead of distracting myself from it.

To build the best morning, you will need to invest time in research and practice. Once you master your morning routine you can set yourself up for more success and less stress, all while living a more intentional and present life.

“I Don’t Like Routines”

“Our minds are like gardens. Without careful cultivation of flowers, weeds will effortlessly grow.” I love this quote because it speaks to the effortless way our brains can misbehave, put us in negative self-talk cycles, or unhealthy habits. It’s doing this because it wants routine, it wants predictability, it wants to be tended to Whether you know it or not, you have a routine.

Maybe your routine is every time you get stressed out you go to Starbucks. Mine was to zone out on mindless time-consuming tasks as I pretended to be productive. Our routines are like pathways in our minds. The more frequently you walk that neural pathway the stronger it becomes.

You can recognize and reestablish these routines in ways that you will find enriching, pampering, and meaningful. Routines can bring you into the present and make healthy choices automatic. Routines are also an important part of self-care.

When it comes to self-care is that most of us already know what to do, but often resist doing it. Even though we know we should take time, we don't. Then, we beat ourselves up for not taking time. That is a dangerous cycle to find yourself in. The only way to make self-care part of your daily life is through consistent effort and intentional actions. Routines will help you find space and time to explore what you are passionate about personally and professionally.

Making PD Part of Your Routine

I live in a geographically isolated area, which means that out-of-town PD costs add up. Also, if you wait to see what’s offered, instead of chasing your passion, you might not find the journey into digital PD, which is a path that could lead to unimaginable places (sometimes in your jammies!)

In PD we like to talk about drinking from the firehose, and I am someone who loves to drink from the firehose. As a result, I drown a lot, but I’m learning to benefit of baby-stepping my way into things. I have learned to embrace digital PD and found a deep and simple way to incorporate it into my daily routine. I have found that a great way to do this is by figuring out what type of digital PD fits with the amount of time you plan to devote to PD each day.

When I signed up for the username @mrsjennarodgers, I had no idea where that simple opened door would take me.

The magic of Twitter is not just the content, but the people sharing the content. It's the relationships with people in these Twitter chats where the real magic happens. Once you have found your tribe, you grow together in unexpected ways. I think the better you know people, the better you know yourself.

There are a lot of Twitter chats out there. You might spend a few months exploring those Twitter chats and deciding which Twitter chat works best for you. It also might be a case of scheduling; look at what Twitter chats are available in the times that you feel you could commit to.

The chats are not just about the content, but also about the relationships that you build with people. Feel free to “lurk,” or simply read the chat as it is live until you find someone you think is funny, or seems approachable, and reach out. Take a breath, follow the 5-Second Rule, and lean into it. You may make some key connections for your professional growth just by sending a message.

Webinars are a great way to get PD in your jammies. Webinars can feel daunting, especially when you're looking at an hour-long webinar. However, you can often break that hour-long webinar of into six ten-minute sessions while you sip your morning latte. You can watch webinars on instructional strategies that you're curious about. You can watch webinars on instructional strategies that you feel you are an expert in and learn from someone else. Heck, if you are passionate about some facet of education, why not put together a webinar yourself? After all, we learn what we teach.

Conferences are hands-down the best way to connect with people. However, let's be real, conferences cost money. You've got the hotel fees, the registration fees, the cost of food, and all the hidden costs that come with leaving home for a little while. Not to mention, if you have any social anxiety these events can trigger panic. There is a solution: digital conferences and Twitter hashtags.

Some conferences, like the five CLS conferences, use conference-specific hashtags (like #CLStech18) as a way to see tweets only about this one event. These hashtags are an invisible way Twitter organizes tweets about the same subject. They are public, so you can stalk the conference and collect all of the free links and great ideas.

A lot of folks drools over the idea of going to #ISTE (this #edufangirl included), but, making the trek to Denver from California may not be an option for many people. However, there is a solution: #NOTATISTE!

Jennifer Wagner and a variety of other volunteers work hard every year to put together this Twitter PD event, which runs concurrent to ISTE. And this event you can create a name badge, participate in challenges, and even win prizes. I won a year of Pear Deck one year.

It's easy to click that subscription button at the bottom of a blog, but it's not always so easy to keep up with the content on a regular basis and really engage in it, unless you have a routine. Luckily, there is a tool to help with this, the Nuzzel app. You tell the app all the blogs that you want to read. Then, once a day, or once a week, you receive a simplified reading list fed from those blogs. This is a great way to keep your PD deep and simple.

I learned how to clean my house, meal prep, do my taxes, organize my adult paperwork, and lose 50 pounds by following the lead of YouTubers.

If you like to listen and watch as a way to consume your information, YouTube could be the perfect platform for you. If you spend some time looking at the variety of educators on YouTube, and you find someone you really connect with like their videos and subscribe to their channel. Even go back to the beginning of their channel and watch some old videos. Comment on their videos and respond to comments of others.

Some YouTubers have millions of subscribers, and although it’s kind of you to let them know how they are helping you, they might not have the time to look at your comment. That doesn’t mean that leaving comments isn’t valuable. Read the information that others share, and you might find a user who consistently shares ideas that you connect with. Maybe that user has a YouTube channel of their own, maybe they have a blog, or they belong to a Facebook Group.

You can set up notification tools on YouTube so as soon as someone you follow puts up a video you can watch it. Most YouTubers keep their videos less than 10 minutes long, which means that you can get a lot of good content in a very short amount of time.

Another way that you can build relationships with people who will inspire you is through Facebook groups. There are hundreds and thousands of Facebook groups out in the world. These Facebook groups can be broad but can also niche down to middle school teachers who teach social studies and like to run.

Find your tribe, and at first just read the comments that people make. A lot of people when they start these Facebook groups they get attached to how many times somebody likes a post or how frequently someone has commented on their post. My suggestion is to ignore the stats of your post, and just focus on the authenticity of your message.

Voxer is a relationship building machine. There's something magical about hearing a voice rather than reading text. I belong to several Voxer groups, and there are extended period of time when I don't even open the app. However, the relationships I built with the communities are such that I can pop on, throw out a question, reap the benefits of that relationship. And then disappear again entirely. Everyone understands that we're all busy, and so your level of Engagement will never dictate how much benefit you receive.

Marco Polo is video-message app. Imagine that instead of writing a text, you hold your camera up and record your message to your friend. That friend then receives the video-message and can respond with a video-message of their own.

Being able to see and hear people, when you're reaching out, when you're asking for advice, when you're building relationships, really means something. It’s easier to be vulnerable with a smiling face than a screen.

I, admittedly, find this genre overwhelming. I mean, where do we find the time to do it all? The answer is, we don’t. Although I do not listen regularly to podcasts, David Rodgers, my husband, does. His tastes lean more toward the humorous side of the entertainment industry and film-geek history stuff. He listens to podcasts when he’s doing his cleaning, or getting ready in the morning, or in the car on the way to work. He listens on his lunch break, and he really enjoys consuming information this way because he feels like he has more time to enjoy the content. There are some amazing education-focused podcasts, like Google Teacher Tribe, that can help you get a little PD on your own terms.

Do It Small, Do It Slow

If you are ready to claim your PD with both hands, then know yourself. I jump in and drown all the time. That means that I get overwhelmed and then disappear for periods at a time. That’s okay. I’m learning how to embrace all of the awesomeness, because the truth is we are awesome and we need to give ourselves time to remember how awesome we are!

If you’re looking for someone to connect to, and you’re not sure how to navigate the waters, find me and I’ll introduce you to some great people who will enrich your life as much as they’ve enriched mine. Take care of yourself, you have enriching to do, too! “When you seek to inspire others, you inspire the best in yourself.” #BetterTogether

Keep your development deep and simple. Set baby step goals. For example, you might decide to invest your time into finding a few blogs that help you personally or professionally. Start by visiting a variety of blogs, perhaps following two or three. Ask for recommendations from your friends and colleagues and spend some time actively searching out content. This process might take a few months, but it is helpful to invest that time in making progress towards building relationships and taking advantage of the powerful professional and personal development that is right at your fingertips.

And, whether you jump or take baby steps into the pool, come on in, the water’s fine!

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