The benefits of professional development in an international setting

Hannah Fernweh posted an inspiring blog for us back in March, where she described her route into international teaching and how it has changed her life. We have kept in touch with Hannah through her first year in China and have shared in her success as she progressed quickly to take on more responsibility in year two. Amazed by the quality and abundance of professional development opportunities available to her, Hannah has now written a new blog about how beneficial PD is as an international educator. We are delighted to share it with you…

 

CPDTo be honest, I never would have thought I’d be the person to write a blog post lauding my access to professional development. Before beginning this adventure into international teaching, professional development was something I had to do to maintain my teaching credentials and was required by my district. Did I want to continue growing as a teacher? Sure, but this mostly happened through informal conversations and observations with colleagues. PDs were some of the least applicable, most torturous experiences of my early teaching career. My, how the tables have turned…

Coming into my second year of teaching in China, I’ve realized there are two main benefits of professional learning that are unique to international education: access to exciting experts and authors who give you actual strategies and ideas to apply in your pedagogy and the time provided by a true work/life balance to focus on personal study and growth.

When first filling in my profile on Teacherhorizons, I, somewhat naively, rated the ability to save and housing provided as “essential” and ranked professional development support as “not important.” Coming from teaching in a low-income, public school, I was feeling burnt out with regard to constantly trying to improve myself while barely staying ahead of my students’ crises. The idea of an international school sending me to professional development opportunities wasn’t in my frame of reference. All of my previous experience at PD sessions was me, sitting in a room with other exhausted teachers while an “expert,” who hadn’t been in a classroom for 20 years, told us how important data                                                                                          was.

Read Hannah’s blog ‘Life Hack – International Teaching’ here.

Hannah teachingSkip to my current profile on Teacherhorizons, where I list professional development support as “essential.” This shift in perspective was like a light switch. Last year and this year, I have participated in five professional learning opportunities with at least three more scheduled for this year. I have also had the time and drive to take a deep dive into pedagogical texts and subsequent online conversations through social media with the very authors I’m reading from. International teaching, particularly in locations where the packages need to include PD support to facilitate recruitment (Asia and the Middle East), emphasizes PD much more than my original experiences. We talk about the latest trends, the research behind them, and how it actually fits into our different school models. Techniques, strategies, and structures that I thought I knew I now have a deeper understanding of because I’ve had the chance to discuss, observe, and practice them through the conferences and session I’ve attended. Through these interactions, I also find out about the latest teacher texts that people are excited about, I use my department budget to purchase them, and then interact with other teachers and the authors themselves in person and through Twitter and Facebook to dissect them. Because this self-driven learning is part of the culture of international education, it is valued and I can spend my time wisely instead of countless hours of my own time on district and governmental mandates and unpacking curricula that didn’t apply to my students.

Read more about CPD in our blog on ‘How to get IB experience’

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Let’s cut down to brass tax, though. Not only is there more money for your school to spend on you to grow as an educator, you’re also surrounded by others striving the same way you are. Instead of everyone in crisis mode trying to stay afloat, grading papers and checking their email while the presenter drones on, I’m surrounded by colleagues from all over the world who are just as excited about lifelong learning as I am. Almost everyone I meet is filled with their own varied ideas and strategies that they’re actually excited to share. In fact, this is one of the most delightful secrets to rediscover participating in PD in an international setting: the world is very small. The longer I’m on this adventure, the more I run into someone who knows the same passionate educator I had met at a previous conference. Professional learning is full of the abundant connections we all have with one another around the world and the amazing knowledge, ideas, and opportunities we share as a global educational community.

 

Are you truly inspired by this blog? We certainly are! It is amazing to hear that best practise is being shared internationally, and that there are so many opportunities out there to develop as an international educator. Be sure to get in touch with your professional development co-ordinator at your own school, to ask what is available to you. I think you will be surprised!

Written by Hannah Fernweh, an international educator who values humor, curiosity, cheese, and new cultures. She currently resides in Shenzhen, China as a PYP Literacy Coordinator with her husband and is fulfilling her New Year's resolution of eating her weight in dumplings.