As I’ve moved jobs from the museum to the classroom to the in-between contractor existence one thing has remained constant, workshops and conferences have been a big part of keeping me professionally “healthy.” It is often the one time in the work cycle when you can actually sit and think about new methods and ideas. It connects you with people, keep you up to date on the field and remind you why you got into the field in the first place!
So yes, I think that going to trainings and conferences and workshops and any kind of professional development is incredibly important…but so is figuring out how to use it when you get back. It doesn’t do you any good if the drive and inspiration fade as soon as you are back to your daily routine.
So, what do you do? Well, the first thing is to make sure that post-professional development you have some time to reflect and sort out the pieces that were useful. As you look at those “nuggets” you have to ask yourself “What role are they going to play?” There may be some that were just interesting conversations to have, others that will be used at specific moments and then some that you want to adopt immediately and completely.
Once you’ve decided what role you WANT it to play, you have to hash out what steps you need to take to get it there. Do you need more training? Will it require some materials or re-organizing a task you already do? Do you need to get your co-workers involved and pool resources? This ‘to do’ list will look very different for different tasks (which is why these guidelines seem VERY vague…sorry).
You also may have to approach your administrator for support, especially if it means you need time to explore and adopt a new technique. Going in with a clear understanding of what you want to do and how to get there will make it MUCH more palatable for a supervisor.
***Administrators….if someone comes to you with a clear eyed idea and can explain what they want to do and why…please listen. I know, you are incredibly busy and there are a lot of moving parts, but it is worth a shot!***
The last critical step is one that comes AFTER you’ve implemented the change and tried it out for a while. Make sure you go back and “check in” with yourself and see if this is working like you had hoped. There is no shame in ditching a plan that doesn’t fit. After all, you learned about it from someone who was doing it a specific way in their specific location…which may not translate perfectly to you.
Hopefully most of these steps seem logical, maybe to the point of obvious. However, you have to make the time to do it. I think that is really the part that needs to be put in bold. When you come back from professional development that inspired you…make the time to think through how you want to use it.