Thursday, August 8, 2013

Professional Development Outside the Box

CC: quacktaculous
Last spring, I attended a free workshop for parents about kindergarten readiness. Nope, I don't have a child going into kindergarten, but I was planning on offering a Get Ready for Kindergarten program at the library this summer and starting up a beginning reader storytime this fall. When I saw that workshop being offered as one of our community's Success by 6 parenting programs, I immediately asked the coordinators if I might sit in.

It was absolutely wonderful! The presenters (a local kindergarten teacher and the coordinator for our public school literacy coaches) shared tons of ideas that I can incorporate into our library programs. They also talked about the Common Core standards and how that has changed what is expected of children in Kindergarten so we know what to teach them to give them a really good starting point.

I came home from that workshop energized and excited to start incorporating what I had learned into our library programs. And that's not the only non-library training that's had me feeling this way recently.

In January, a representative from our local Childcare Resource and Referral office gave a 2-hour training for my staff and other local librarians on child development. My staff and I are comfortable with early literacy concepts, but our trainer was able to teach us a lot about physical and social/emotional development. We left that training with many activity ideas for developing fine and gross motor skills and the social skills children will need when they start school.

This spring, I also sent one of our librarians to a nearby I am Moving, I am Learning conference. This librarian has started offering preschool music and dance programs at our library and attending this conference gave her ideas to incorporate into her programs. They also discussed the research behind childhood obesity and reasons to include movement in all parts of a child's day. This gave my librarian helpful statistics and facts to share with parents during her program to encourage them to keep their kids moving.

As the mad rush of summer starts to come to an end, a librarian's thoughts may roam to professional development. The kids are going back to school and the fall and winter months might be a good time for public librarians to partake in some learning, as well.

There are many great library conferences, webinars, and workshops available for librarians in the library world (did you know that ALSC and YALSA members have access to free archived webinars???). But you're missing some great information if you're not training outside the librarian box! Here are some places to look for valuable non-librarian trainings:

  • Does your community have a Success by 6 action team, United Way, or other group advocating for healthy early childhood development? Ask them about workshops for parents or childcare providers.
  • Does your YMCA, parks & rec department, or community center offer parenting classes? Register or ask the presenters if you can sit in when they're discussing a topic relevant to your work.
  • Seek out local or state early childhood associations. Find your local Childcare Resource & Referral region. Do they have trainers available or know of workshops in your area? The National Association for the Education of Young Children has a yearly conference that moves around the country and state AEYCs have conferences, too. Bonus tip: check out the NAEYC store for tons of professional resources you may want to purchase for yourself or your library.  
  • In Indiana, the Purdue Extension Offices in each county offer workshops on I am Moving, I am Learning, and other topics. 
  • In Indiana, the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community offers training to professional staff on early childhood topics and disabilities. Other states may have a University Center on Disabilities that may provide workshops and training opportunities. 
  • Check to see if your local colleges and universities offer an option to audit a class on early childhood, elementary, or higher education. 
  • Attend a local or nearby homeschooling convention or meeting to find out what the trends are in homeschooling and how you might be able to support your local homeschoolers. 
  • Consider teacher conferences like the National Council of Teachers of English conference or the National Science Teachers Association conference (STEM programming, anyone?!). 
If you're not sure what resources are available to you locally, ask your local Head Start or preschool teachers. Ask teachers at your public and private schools. They may be having workshops or trainers on inservice days or over the summer and they might allow local librarians to sit in (especially if you explain that you're trying to get a better idea of how the library can serve teachers and students!). 

Not every workshop or conference is going to be relevant to the work you're doing. Think about what you hope to learn, what programs you're developing, and where you want this information to take you. Then choose what's going to be a good use of your (or your library's) funds. Keep in mind that many national conferences are held at various places all over the country and it might be worth waiting until the conference is nearby and you won't have to shell out for a hotel room and plane tickets. 

I have never had anyone protest at having a librarian attending one of their workshops. On the contrary, people are happy to see their local librarians getting involved with some different kinds of professional development. We're all in this together for the good of our children and our community! 

What other suggestions do you have for professional development outside the librarian box? Anyone have good resources to share for finding workshops or conferences? Please add your two cents in the comments!