Characteristics of a Professional Learner
(according to Amy)
1. Is always reflective. There just won't be an aspect of their profession they don't reflect on, evaluate and try to improve. They always operate in a mode that there is always something else to learn. Sometimes they are too hard on themselves and either too easily blame themselves when something in their instruction doesn't work they way they hoped, so their reflection can sometimes be their tragic flaw. The point is that in everything they do they are striving to improve and find what works best and produces the most results.
How we can encourage reflection in our reluctant colleagues:
- "Is there something we could have provided or thought of that would have made this even more successful?"
- Plus / Delta - "What pluses can we find in what happened? What elements need change (delta)?"
2. Enjoys talking about their profession. In fact, they may have a hard time NOT talking about it. A professional learner is always looking for new opportunities and connections to keep the dialogue going. They may have to force themselves to do something besides that!
How we can distract our complaining colleagues:
- "I'm sorry to hear that happened. Let's see, what is something positive that happened today?"
- "That really frustrates me, too so I try to focus on..."
3. Seeks out opportunities to learn more. They work hard to stay connected to quality sources of information related to what they do as well as people in their field who have valuable things to say. Their eye is always on the ready wherever they go because something instructive or inspirational may be anywhere!
How to encourage disinterested colleagues:
- Share great ideas you find or learn in new places.
- Invite them to attend something with you. Offer to pick them up or buy them lunch while there.
- Make a "date" to share something with them you've learned or have done or other resources you might have.
- Offer to teach them how to use something like Twitter or Pinterest.
4. Looks to learn in any situation. You know how it is. You are in a training or some PD session that you can already tell won't meet your expectations, but you take notes anyway. You CHOOSE to find something of value or you ALLOW the less than desirable training to INSPIRE your own ideas.
How to distract complaining colleagues:
- "Wow! We must be ahead of the game. I wonder what we can take away from this?"
- "Let's see if there is something about this topic we have forgotten or overlooked that might help us."
- "Let's see how we can take their ideas and improve them!"
- "I'll look for one new idea from this and you look for one, too. Let's see if we have something we can get out of this today."
5. Doesn't expect the learning or take-a-aways to be pre-packaged. This is a quality I discovered from reading those conference evaluations. Sometimes the participants lodged complaints when they saw some aspect of the presented topic not offered in that 1 hour and 15 minute window. Or sometimes the participants commented when they left a session without things they could take to the copy machine on Monday. The thing is that a professional learner doesn't need the ready-made worksheet, project or resource. In fact, if they do hit the jackpot and wind up with a great handout from a presenter, rarely will that handout look the same when they employ it themselves. A professional learner isn't looking for a magic bullet, they are looking for the spark of an idea or a beam of light to illuminate a new way of thinking.
How to redirect a frustrated colleague's attention on the missing materials:
- "How can we take their idea and apply it to our situation?"
- "How could we use this?"
- "How does this information apply to our students or our classes?"
6. Doesn't wait for the learning or doing to be done for them. A professional learner can take in new information and be resourceful and proactive. This is especially true when it comes to technology in the workplace / classroom. In fact, in the 21st century workplace employees who are dependent upon someone to show them how to do something are less valued than ones who can research solutions, try things out on their own and make things happen without holding someone else's hand.
How to inspire passive colleagues:
- "If you will do (x), I will do (y)."
- "What do we need to know or find out in order to pull this off?"
- "Can you help me look into...?"
- "Let's research X and share it with the team."
- "Why don't we meet in the computer lab and do this together."
Wrapping it up
One last thing, I know that our colleagues are more often harder to deal with than the suggestions here might imply. The goal I hope to reach is for us all to find ways to deflect the negative comments and vibes they might emit and maybe just help us to keep our attitudes in check when we have to interact with them. Sometimes reacting with positive responses deflates the negativity, and more powerfully shows that person we prefer to deal with things in a different way. Anyway, we can try, right?