If you know me, I like to ask, “So What?” When I was asked to join the Stride Professional Development team as an instructional designer for continuing education courses, I had to consider if I cared enough about that to shift my focus. I asked myself, “So What? What is the point? Is continuing education actually helpful?”
I spent some time reflecting on my teaching experience, paid attention to my educator friends, observed my children’s classroom teachers, considered my various professional careers, and discussed professional development with my local elementary school administrator. Having spent time reflecting, three primary benefits of continuing education rose to the surface.
Learn New Skills
The one benefit of continuing education that goes almost without needing to say it is that you learn new skills. Each job that I have worked has offered me the opportunity to grow various skills. Whether I was packing delivery trucks under a time crunch, using software to create media content, or struggling to meet the needs of my special needs students, I had to reach outside of myself to learn and improve specific skills that would contribute to the success of my organization, my stakeholders, and my overall well-being. Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
More Job Opportunities
Early in my teaching profession, I observed my administrators and bosses as they would find and develop specialists within their organization’s ecosystems. Instead of hiring outsiders into those roles, they often looked at their current employees to see where there was talent and a willingness to grow. I became a math coach at one of my schools because I had proven that I was skilled in that area and because I continued to pursue growth through professional development and learning communities focused on teaching math. Across the board, employers recognize employees who are continuously learning and have completed continuing education courses as more qualified than those who have not. Not only did I see schools improve when administrators encouraged this, but those employees had greater overall satisfaction and had a much easier time getting promotions and finding the jobs they desired.
Gain a Competitive Edge
Getting laid off isn’t something anyone really wants to talk about, but every school and every company grows and shrinks. While schools have various ways to handle downsizing, if you have shown yourself to be constantly pursuing growth and on the cutting edge of your field, your administration will make more significant efforts to find ways to keep you, and, if they cannot, they will find ways to support you as you seek your next position. Because of my efforts to serve my students better through growing professionally, my companies usually fought to keep me. When they could not, I received great letters of recommendation from various administrators and bosses for jobs inside and outside school systems. Peter Drucker, an expert in the field of business, said, “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.” You become a more valuable asset to your organization when you make efforts to grow through continuing education.
While additional benefits of continuing education abound (networking, certificates, credits, etc.), learning new skills, increasing job opportunities, and gaining a competitive edge rise to the top for me.
As I spoke with my son’s elementary school administrator, he shared his desire for his staff to have professional development options that truly meet their needs. As the Stride PD Center continues to grow its course catalog, I get to continue building valuable, applicable resources that meet the needs of teachers and school leaders. I am supporting them as they learn new skills, increase their job opportunities, and gain a competitive edge to help them pursue their professional goals and the goals they have for their students. Those are substantial reasons for continuing education.