Every Monday from April to June, the GATA Network will be sharing advice on how to make your summer productive. This week we talk about the importance of working on your self and your craft.

Teachers are often likened to hermits, renegades, and lone wolves even, in that they supposedly like to go their own way. The problem is that no teacher is an island, or to use another cliche, we’re all in this together. That means we have a lot to learn by sharing ideas, discussing learning strategies, and maybe even working in teams. You can develop your skills as a student teacher and learner a lot further by attending workshops and joining working groups to take ownership of your professional development.

More often than not, though, personal development is the last thing on our minds. That may be because that other “PD” – professional development – is so much more justifiable. “I can make time for this if it’s going to make my job easier”, we say, or “Taking a few hours to learn a skill for my trade makes sense.” And if you follow the Network at all, you know there are always opportunities for professional development (see “CTL Events” and “GATAcademy“). So how do we get personal with our development?

Image courtesy of zdnet.com

Image courtesy of zdnet.com

What Does Personal Development Even Mean?

The main difference between personal development and professional development is that the former implies working towards a better life, while the latter implies developing skills for the workplace. It’s not that the two are mutually exclusive, but personal development acknowledges that sometimes the best things you can do for yourself have no immediate payoff, or don’t offer a credential, or may not even be marketable. Yes, a wise student teacher is one that thinks about how the skills he/she is developing in the classroom translate to his/her future career, but a healthy and happy student teacher is one that thinks about what kind of person they want to be. Because you don’t need to know how to play the guitar to be a teacher, but maybe you want to know anyway. You also don’t need to know photoshop to be a psychologist, but maybe that’s a skill you’ve always wanted. These goals fall into the realm of personal development.  They’re not unprofessional per se, they just don’t necessarily attach themselves to your professional goals.

The following are but a few examples of how to go about your professional development this summer:

Take a Class Outside of School

Imagine a class where you aren’t graded/grading, possibly where you get to eat your own work. The City of Windsor’s community centres offer boat loads of cheap classes on just about every topic imaginable (including cooking). The offerings change every season and differ between locations. The best way to keep track of what’s being offered is to browse the city’s Activity Guide. Offered this summer: sushi classes, first aid training, canoeing in Ojibway, and much more.

Watch Some TED Talks

This sounds so 2010, but there are still a lot of informative, stimulating, innovative talks being published on TED. It’s pretty widely accepted that the golden rule of personal development is to ensure that you are always educating your self. The “on what” is less important, just as long as you are widening your perspective. Its range and variety is really what makes TED so worthwhile.

The App Crowd

Speaking of online resources…. As long as they don’t take the good, honest hard work out of it, there are a number of apps/websites out there that can make your personal development journey a lot smoother. But Lifehack already wrote an article on those.

Play Ball, or Other Sports

Maybe all of those BodyBreak commercials worked on us, but there’s something to be said for the curative effects of being active. The problem is, if you’re like most GA/TAs, you usually don’t make time to work up a sweat during the school year. Not forgetting that self-education is the key to personal development, it’s worth pointing out that being active may actually be the best way to build all those transferable, CV-able skills people are always talking about (e.g., communications skills, leadership skills, etc.), according to the Canadian Council on Learning. The city’s Activity Guide has some options available this summer for sports too, but don’t forget about intramural sports at UWindsor.

Make it Count: Build a Routine

The most common reason that personal development stalls is that we don’t capitalize on the gains we make. We take dance lessons but never go out dancing. We start going to the gym every morning but stop once the Fall semester starts. If something isn’t working or meshing with the goals you’ve set for yourself, don’t be afraid to throw it out. That said, most of the activities you’ll take up as part of your personal development will require some sort of routine/practice/schedule to start offering real benefits.


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3 Responses to Making the Time for Personal Development

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  3. […] like these are a great way to work on personal development and an opportunity to share your work with the wider community in a safe space (which is tough for […]

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