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What is the next step?
My Future as a Learner (2011)
Four years ago, I graduated from Michigan State University with my Teacher Certification in Secondary Mathematics and Biology, and the title of a "life-long learner." To this day, I still remember feeling like my education would never be “complete,” but I did not fully understand the rewards of a never-ending education and growth process that would take place.
But what exactly does it mean to be a life-long learner? What do you or should you learn? What steps are taken along this path? These questions are never fully answered because there is not a simple, textbook answer. Rather, it depends on the individual seeking growth. Some pursue professional development opportunities organized within the school district, while others seek development that is organized at a national level, through conferences. The path and the commitment required from that path often depends on how passionate and driven one is for learning. When you are passionate about what you do, you acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and thrive on strategies and research available, to make you more successful.
My passion for learning is rooted in the ability to conduct research within my classroom, in order to find strategies that provide optimal student success rates, at any level including academic, social and/or behavioral. When I originally applied for the graduate program through Michigan State University, I envisioned that the graduate program would "force me to change my way of teaching, constantly think about new research and even conduct my own research."
Within Michigan State University's demanding graduate program, I, in fact, had the opportunity to conduct several different research topics within my own classroom. This research ranged from strategies to achieving higher assessment scores, to motivating students to learn the content at hand, to managing challenging students. If we are expected to prepare 21st century learners for research and development then the research and development must begin within ourselves first! In an ever-changing society, we are left we no choice but to become life-long learners and make the commitment to bettering our students and ourselves.
But in order to conduct research, one must be an integral member to a wide-range of educational communities. Conducting research within my small classroom does not automatically connect me to “research” within the educational society. Research requires a great amount of support and dedication from educational advocates like fellow teachers, professors, researchers, etc… It is my responsibility to become a member of organizations much larger than the Harnett County School District. Michigan State University’s graduate degree program provided a great opportunity for me to become actively involved with fellow educators and listen to not only their input on my research, but discover the research that they themselves have completed, and the success rates that followed.
While Michigan State provided an excellent community of life-long learners across the nation, it still is not enough. Normally, the relationship between classmates within the program dramatically diminishes with the completion of the class. The lines of communication are left to social up-dates rather than professional development conversations that are vital professional growth. Upon the completion of my graduate degree program, I fully understand that this too does not mark a level of “completion” at all. A graduate degree is merely another stepping stone that has been passed to better my career, and myself in order to fully prepare 21st century learners.
Currently, I view my impact on teaching, at a local level. I conduct research within my classroom, attend professional development offered within my district and even organize and provide professional development opportunities for teachers across my district. My goal is to be impacted and impact education at a much higher level. A National Board Certification will connect me to the national education community, that is necessary to achieve that level of education. A former member of the board of directors for the National Board Certification, Andrea Pulido notes “Teacher effectiveness is very much affected by the school situation, the community situation, the parents and the resources we have. We do have the resources out there that can support and encourage teacher effectiveness in terms of professional development. We have organizations at the state level, we have national organizations like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards that are all about quality teaching.” The organization is designed around a national level, so the education community is formed beyond my district. The connection made with fellow education advocates will be vital to my continued journey as a life-long learner. Therefore obtaining my National Board Certification is not so much a goal for my future as a learner, rather a necessity. Becoming an active member within the national educational community will connect me to the latest research that will more importantly better impact my students. This “goal” will never be mastered; rather, it will take a lifetime to reach towards. Again, if we are expected to prepare students for a world of research and development at a national level, then we too must be willing to involve ourselves in the world of research and development across the national and potentially global level. The possibilities are endless, restricted only by how willing the teacher is to learn!
I received my National Board Certification in 2014!