A while back, I posted about Continuing Education requirements and opportunities. Now, I’m going to talk about what I feel are the pros and cons of different types of Continuing Ed. What’s best for you really comes down to your learning style. Most people are auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners (or a combination of the above). Your personal learning style will weigh heavily on what form of continuing education is best for you.
Pros: Self study is a broad area. Most of what I have come across, is in the form of a book. You read the book, take a quiz, send in your answers, they send you a certificate. If you want to be able to go at your own pace, and have the book available to go back through when you are working on the quiz, this is a good choice. Books are also the way to go if you like to keep the books on your shelf for future reference.
There are a few books that I have read that are fabulous, such as Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. This book is not one that has a quiz that can be sent in for a certificate. It is, however, worth reading! You will learn a lot about yourself, as well as the children in your care (or your own kids if you are a parent). I read it every couple years. Being able to keep a copy on your bookshelf of high quality books is a good thing!
If you are working in a child care setting, and are only looking for hours to meet state requirements, reading a book and writing a report on it may be an option. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, book reports are not accepted towards Clock Hour requirements for relicensing.
Another form of self-study is in the form of on-line courses. Online courses are available through some colleges or through companies such as the Professional Learning Board. Most of the courses have some interaction, drag and drop “Check Your Understanding” activities, quizzes, videos to watch, etc. Some courses have audio available. These fit with my learning style better than strictly text.
Cons: I am not a fast reader, and I often fall asleep reading. Self-study books are a good choice when I want to take my time, but not when I’m trying to keep trekking though information. For me, the content of the book also plays a role in how effective this type of study is. If I am reading new information that is well written, I am more engaged. If what I am reading re-hashes information I’ve already read about, I may struggle to get through it.
Workshops/Staff In-service Meetings
Pros: Workshops (at least the ones I have been to through the Appelbaum Training Institute)are fun, interactive, and definitely engaging! There’s something to be said for sitting with a group of other professionals who deal with the same day-to-day issues. Some of the people in the room have amazing ideas you can learn from, while others may learn something from you! Many of the speakers I have seen, mix personal experiences with humor. The personal/emotional connections are what make workshops among my favorite means of acquiring continuing education hours.
Most workshops I have been to, give out packets to take notes. PowerPoint slides, fill in the blanks, etc. may be included in those packets. This allows for several learning styles at once to be tapped into. Your brain is engaged through taking notes, you are listening, you are reading, your emotions are being tapped into…
Some staff in-service meetings may include training that will earn you continuing education hours. The advantage is that you are there with your peers. You are all learning the same thing, and can discuss how it directly applies to the children in your care or your classrooms.
Cons: Most workshops take up the better part of a day (or in some cases, multiple days), often on weekends. This can take up time that you would normally spend with your family. If you are a single parent, that is a pretty significant burden. There is also the unwritten cost of traveling to the workshop you are attending.
Mentoring student teachers is probably my favorite way of earning continuing education hours! It is not necessarily something you can ask for. Your supervisor must feel you are ready to take on the responsibility. Being asked to mentor a student is, in itself a huge honor! It is also a huge challenge. You must be on your top game at all times. There are small intricacies in what we do every day that we may not even realize. Student teachers are watching and pick up on those. I personally think I am my best when I know someone is watching me (besides, of course, the children in my care who are ALWAYS watching).
I’m sure there are means of acquiring hours that I don’t know about (or forgot to mention). Feel free to post a comment to enlighten me and other readers!