As you settle into the school year, the days of summer - where you had a clear head with time to reflect and process - are slowly slipping further and further away. Despite the busy nature of these first weeks of school, your professional growth does not need to come to a screeching halt. While you may need to put that book down for the time being, there are still ways to connect beyond the four walls of your classroom/school and continue cultivating yourself as a learner.
Organize a News Stream - No time to comb through multiple publications or social media feeds to find the news and ideas most relevant to your practice? No problem. Take 20 minutes to setup an account with a content organizer such as Feedly or Flipboard and use your interests, hashtags, and sources to filter your feed to the content that matters most. If you are feeling really overwhelmed, link your news stream to Evernote, OneNote, or Pocket to bookmark the articles that interest you and come back to them when you're able to get your head above water.
Make a New Connection - Yes, just one. Make a commitment to connect with one person and add them to your professional learning network each week. This can be through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or a good old-fashioned coffee meeting - whatever matches your style and needs. By making one new connection a week, by the end of the year you will have 50+ new brains in your think tank to access as collaborators and thought partners.
Couch Surf a Conference - No time or funds to attend a conference? Select a few that interest you and watch the organization's live feeds on their website and/or follow the back channel on Twitter with the conference's hashtag. Some attendees' coverage has become so comprehensive, you'll feel like you're actually there - even if you're still in your pajamas.
Cold Call an Education "Hero" - You will never grow unless you put yourself out there with the visionaries and educators you respect most. Reach out, pose a burning question, and watch the magic happen. I have been graced with conversations with Bena Kallick, Art Costa, Bob Marzano, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Allison Zmuda, Mike Fisher, and Robyn Jackson to name just a few because I had the guts to ask.
Keep an Idea Log - Journals are overwhelming. They imply we need complete thoughts when often our ideas come in bursts between 3rd and 4th periods. Reduce the stress, but capture the brilliance, by keeping an idea log instead. You'll know these concepts are not yet fully formed and can come back to them when you have the time and space to explore them more deeply.
Do you have additional ideas? What are some of the ways you continue to push yourself professionally even when your schedule is jam-packed?