Get Thee to a Nunnery!

Okay, maybe not a nunnery, but get thee to something so totally out of your comfort zone that…

Photo of Laurie Bartels
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For those of us who teach, it is not just a matter of keeping up with content and pedagogy within our areas of expertise, but also challenging and stimulating ourselves to learn something different and in manners not consistent with our natural learning styles. This benefits us as teachers while also benefiting our long-term cognitive health.

Professional development can expand horizons, inspire thinking outside the box, cause empathy with learning styles, create admiration for those with different skill sets, promote more rounded intellects, and provide simple satisfaction. I have coined a term for such all-encompassing professional development – synapse sensations. Synapses are those miniscule spaces between the neurons in our brains where one neuron transmits to another neuron. Indeed, researchers think this is where learning takes place and memories are made, so why not foster the growth of as many neurons and synapses as possible! 

In such a professional development environment, faculty participate in a variety of opportunities: areas of personal interest, areas outside of their comfort zone and expertise, within their subject area, and areas that complement their subject area. Pursuing opportunities outside our areas of comfort or expertise actually models what we strive to share with our students, which is to take a risk, and keep learning. By being students along side our students, we help build a community of learners. By having students switch roles and teach teachers, we model respect for students and acknowledge that teachers do not have all the answers. By having administrators participate, we model respect for the equality and importance of learning.

So what are you waiting for? Get thee to a nunnery! (One of those Boys From Syracuse Amazons is me; the rest were high schoolers, and it was my first student-faculty musical – my "nunnery". Also, the comments above were taken from something I wrote a few years ago for my professional digital learning hub.)

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Photo of Julie Abrams Faude

Last weekend I tried Dragon Boating. Let me say I am 56 and have lived 10 minutes from our local river and have never been on it. When we neared the finish line of the race I spontaneously yelled out "TRY SOMETHING NEW". There is nothing like truly feeling the fear and excitement of being a student!

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