Maintaining the 180 Spirit Cycle-Part Two

      A little over a week ago, I attended the ILA Annual Conference in Austin, Texas. I was excited to attend one of my favorite conferences and celebrate the appreciated disbelief of transitioning into my twenty-fifth year in education. Don't you love oxymorons? I know I do--especially since in year one I counted the days until the end of the year, so I could escape, and even checked how to graciously get out of a contract. I truly appreciate both the provided professional learning and my mentors noticing strengths that could become more consistent if coached, so that I am still actively engaged in the profession, which is a significant part of who I am.

     OK, I'll move back into attending ILA and the continuation of my June blog post. As an educator, our overall work is to inspire curiosity and develop life-long learners. In January 2017, Dr. Dockterman shared an article from The Economist, "Lifelong Learning is Becoming an Economic Imperative," to encourage us to think about the connection between education and employment not only to get a job, but to stay relevant in the workplace because of the rapidly changing technology. Since then, I continue to return to this article to think about the importance of being a life-long learner. To develop others, we must always begin with self. Though we cannot always have the easiest of access to leading thought leaders or the new voices on the cusp of their impact, we are a profession that can make the most of blended learning and technology. Even if you could not personally join the conference, speakers were posting Facebook Lives, conducting blended breakouts, and posting handouts to download and share. I encourage you to check out blended options for a national conference that aligns to your professional learning goals.

     Our profession benefits from blended learning options because it strengthens efficacy and instructional effectiveness as an aide to enhance relationships, relevance, and rigor. However, having face-to-face time and actively participating in content with peers is an important contribution to maintain the high dividends that our instruction returns on the investment. Collectively we are the number one return on investment, but from my experience, to maintain the upside of your personal portfolio, we need to invest in ourselves as well. That is what I did as I added steps to my day walking through the exhibit hall, up and down escalators, and following the map to locate the room of an anticipated session.

     I walked the exhibit halls to observe ideas and tools available for reading instruction. I picked up new titles that have been on my reading wish list. I smiled remembering my love of waiting in line for a signed copy of my class’s favorite read aloud. I attended sessions on topics that caught my eye. (Because I love, love, love writing session descriptions for the content I develop for educator experiences, this is one of my favorite parts of planning to attend a conference.) I am biased toward cool titles that clearly state expectations and outcomes through fun verbiage that describes deep discussions of key pedagogy is going to take place here and ensure that I will walk away with new learning and practices that can be used tomorrow. And, I talked, snapped, and tweeted my way through the conference as I caught up with dear friends, high-fived fellow educators that sought me out and met new colleagues. Actively participating in professional learning benefits our 180 spirit in the following ways:

  • Contributing to our knowledge and expertise
  • Validating our intuition and understanding
  • Introducing and modeling new instructional best practices
  • Sparking Aha! moments
  • Promoting agreements and professional debates
  • Building a network and life-long connections

     I met one of my dearest friends, Karen Javits, in 1995 in our summer back to school professional learning for the Orange County Literacy Project. Though it's not easy to stay elbow partners, we keep up through social networks. If we met today, we would laugh, catch up on family, and talk ELL Strategies. 

In 2006, I met Charmion Mohning, our newest Community blogger of "Charming Readers." We connected as I delivered her district's initial READ 180 Enterprise Getting Started sessions. I return each year to keep giving and have deep pedagogical chats with her. 

Then, because I love unexpected encounters, at ILA 2018, I was able run into two of my newer friends, Mary Shelton and Michele Nichols. The two of us bonded over Birkenstocks, the importance of inspiring teacher confidence, and the joy of moving striving readers out of the failure cycle. From year one to the present, friendships forged during personal learning moments last.

     Goodness, my 180 spirit has been active for a quarter of a century. I didn't think I would make it to year two, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I am the product of the best professional learning. How can you continue to brighten your 180 spirit in the last month of summer? Consider the tips offered below.

Brighten Up the Professional Spirit

  • Check out professional learning being offered in your area. Consider virtual opportunities if travel is not an option. Read descriptions of sessions to select ones that align to your goals.
  • Actively participate. Hold back any possible eye rolls when asked to move up front or chose an elbow partner you do not know. Often the moment the facilitator pushes us out of our comfort zone, learning is going to happen.
  • Talk to the presenter. You may inspire her to think about a new consideration, trigger thoughts for her blog, validate planned content, or become a dear friend.
  • Don't let someone sit or eat lunch by themselves. You may create a friendship that lasts twenty-plus years.

Love what you do and do what you love.


Orlando, Florida

One of the coolest and interesting facts about Noelle is that she was the first READ 180 teacher. 

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