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Mark Burke is CEO and founder of mynddset

I Do Floss Every Day Dr., HONEST I Do: The Importance of Continual Professional Development and Practice

By Mark T. Burke

Continual Professional Development and Practice

It takes me about 1 minute to floss.  Over the course of one year, I spend around 365 minutes, or 6 hours flossing. So, I guess it would make sense that rather than flossing each day, I could just wait until the day before my dental exam to floss for 6 hours straight, right? WELL OF COURSE NOT!  No one really believes this makes any sense.  The benefits of flossing come from performing the task daily.  The total time has little to do with the overall benefit. The real benefit of flossing is only witnessed when the task is performed daily, preventing “bad things” from starting.

The same principle applies to Professional Development for music teachers. Only participating in Professional Development once, twice or just a few times per year, is the equivalent of expecting positive results from flossing once a year.  By doing so, we prioritize “just getting it done” over the true benefits of Professional Development.

How can we adopt the “Continual Professional Development and Practice” model? 

  • Change Your Mind, Change Your Habits:  Have you thought about the serious consequences of not maintaining and growing your professional status?  Today’s economy has changed the definition of job security.  Organizations hiring today want individuals at the top of their field, those who know the latest and greatest teaching strategies.  If you are secure, staying at the top of your game will help to keep you there. Once you’re convinced that your duty includes Continual Professional Development and Practice….you’re ready for the next few steps.
  • Start Thinking DAILY:  Set aside time in your life for DAILY Professional Development.  If you need to ease into it, great, ease in, but do it.  Find a time, at least 15-30 minutes per day that is all yours.  This doesn’t have to be a specific time, it can change.  For example, you may choose, during lunch, after eating breakfast, first thing when you wake up, right before bed, etc.  Those times can change, but the habit can be the same. 
  • Find a Motivator:  Everyone needs a rock, something to strong to count on each day.  I’ve found mine in a great online resource called TED.com.  TedTalks are simply amazing.  Each day, a new talk is posted with thousands archived if you want to search for specifics.  I watch at least 1 per day.  They remind me that to impact great ideas, to expect growth in youth, that I too have to explore my own ideas and grow.  Your motivator may be a book, a blog, a website, or whatever.  The important thing is that the motivator also be a tool for development.
  • Share and Spread:  Social media makes it easy to share ideas.  If you’re keeping your classroom methods and ideas secret, then ask yourself why and revisit “Change Your Mind, Change Your Habits.”  Sharing and Spreading is a part of PD that has been missing for too long.  When we share an idea, it spreads, people talk, add to the idea, make it better.  Spreading and Sharing is living, breathing PD….much better than sitting in a auditorium full of people once a year to earn 6 hours of PD credits leaning about something that only remotely applies to music, isn’t it?  
  • Think Prevention Through Practice:  New ideas are worthless unless put into practice. Practicing new ideas helps us master our profession.  We all tell our students how important practice is … right?  Do you not tell your students they should be practicing their craft daily?  Hummm….a good prescription for us all don’t you think? Going to work and doing your job is NOT practice, sorry.  Just like we tell students, Band Rehearsal doesn’t count toward your own practice time. If we preach it, we should live it.

PD is under serious threat.  Budgets removed and in PA at least, the state requirement has even been lifted.  But, we as a professional community should not view these threats as reasons to NOT meet our own needs.  Today, Columbus Day 2011 reminds me of how fortunate we are.  Many of us have the day to participate in PD.  I know I am.  The SoundTree METOS is all day. I can’t wait to hear from some amazing people.

Flossing once a year…gross!  PD once a year…ugly.  CPDP, the only way.



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