02 July 2014

Professional Learning Journey

My days have been especially full since my last post, and though I thought often about posting a new blog entry, I have been deep in thought and in work, and haven't taken the time to write.  One of the opportunities I had last week was to participate in a state wide conversation about professional learning in Kentucky.  As preparation for that event, we were asked to prepare a timeline to represent our professional journey.  At the meeting, we shared our timelines, and my friend and colleague shared her creative professional learning timeline.  Not surprisingly, I was impressed and asked Cindy if she would share her timeline in a guest blog post to inspire others.  I know she inspired me, and I hope to re-think my professional journey using a similar format.  If you decide to do the same, I hope you will share.

Enjoy & never stop learning, creating, and leading!

Guest Post by Cindy Parker

“A child said, What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child...I do not know what it is any
   more than he.

I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff

Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrance designedly dropped,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see
   And remark, and say Whose?” Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

When I started high school, my brother, who is 17 years older than me and a poet, introduced me to Walt Whitman’s poetry.  I remember pondering the strange, wonderful words and form contained in Leaves of Grass.  He has remained one of, if not my favorite poet. So recently, when assigned a task at work to create a professional learning timeline of my journey and experiences with teaching and education, I knew what best represented my journey—Whitman’s words.

I created my timeline using the preface in an old college-student edition purchased at Half-Price Books. My timeline began with my student teaching, then first year of teaching in 1988, both at Harrodsburg High School.  I circled the word “literature” because like all secondary English teachers, I thought that’s what I would be doing as a teacher—teaching the literature I loved. 

Throughout my timeline, I added the names of those who most influenced me as a professional.  In those first years, that was one of my college professors, who served as my university supervisor during student teaching, Jan Isenhour, who would later serve as my instructor in the Bluegrass Writing Project, and who I admired greatly throughout my teaching career.  The second name at the beginning of the timeline is Don Pelly, a biology teacher who served as my KTIP (internship year) mentor.  He was a great mentor, colleague and is still someone I am honored to call a friend, even after we both left HHS in 1998.

A few other highlights from my timeline are colleagues I’ve mentored, such as Monica. I circled “Past and present and future…” because we have continued to work and learn together as friends and colleagues since her first year at Washington County and now at the Kentucky Department of Education.  NBCT appears on my timeline for 2002, the year I achieved National Board Certification, one of the best professional learning experiences I engaged in as a teacher. Renee Boss is among the names recorded along my timeline because of her influence on my growth as a professional, as a colleague whose vision and enthusiasm encourages me, and as someone I love to learn alongside and call a friend.

Something I noticed about my timeline is that the last few years have been packed—with people, with activities, and with new learning.  I circled “progress” and wrote “coherence” as the bringing together of all of this learning. It’s been an exciting time in the last few years to be in education with so many changes.

The final words of the preface sum up this phase of my career, as I enter my 27th year in education and continue to learn, grow, and meet new challenges.  Many find Whitman’s focus on the individual boastful and audacious; I find it refreshing and uplifting and what an educator should strive to be:

“An individual is as superb as a nation when he has the qualities which make a superb nation. The soul of the largest and wealthiest and proudest nation may well go half-way to meet that of its poets.  The signs are effectual. There is no fear of mistake. If the one is true the other is true.  The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”