Being at the CAEYC Conference this weekend made me reflect a bit on professional development. It was great seeing about 2,000 child care professionals taking valuable time away from their duties to expand their own knowledge, improve their skills, and network with kindred spirits (oh yeah, and check out some really cool exhibitors).
As I was in a booth for this particular conference, I was not able to attend any of the workshops. But, I was able to have some good, thought-provoking conversations with both child care professionals and other exhibitors; definitely gave me some things to think about. I've always wondered at conferences if the greatest benefit is actually from the workshops or from the chance to spend quality time bouncing ideas back and forth with other professionals. Regardless, it's time well spent.
In the hotel room in the evenings of the conference, I was working on homework for a class that I am currently taking as part of a reading specialist certification. I haven't taken classes in quite some time and have been amazed at not only what I have learned in these classes, but to what degree I've been forced to really examine what I know and don't know about various subjects. Really digging into current research and the educational implications of that research has been fascinating. It has led me to make a personal commitment to take at least one class a year to keep more current in my field. I will also try to get to at least one conference per year.
If your state has a continuing education requirement, it's great that you have a built-in motivation for staying current. If not, I challenge you to join me in a commitment to ensure your own professional development. I think we all owe it to the children we work with to know and understand the latest research and to learn how to apply that research to constantly improve our programs.