How I stopped living in a hobo-shelter of PD binders

Do you have a bookshelf behind your desk that houses every binder, handout and artifact from every professional development you have ever been to?

No. I know you don’t. It’s July. All that training detritus is A) on your dining room table, B) In your garage, or C) in the trunk of your car. But you will. When you set that classroom up in August, you will, and all the training you attend now to make your teach-craft better is making that shelf worse. It doesn’t have to be so. It’s easy. Use a composition book.

I used to be a shelf person. The sad reality of the terrible professional shelf is that it doesn’t get used during the school year. What has finally worked for me is both compact and has helped me form the habit of reviewing my notes year after year.

Step 1: Attend that training, read that book or do that online course.

Start with a tab and a title. Take amazing notes. Did they give you handouts?  Cut and glue what matters or transcribe that mess. Nothing else can live outside the notebook unless you promise to reference it often.

If it is an online training where you type in a forum, print your comments or the comments of others. This advice was forged in sadness over good conversations lost after we all got credit.

Step 2: Go home


Pull out a highlighter and pick out the good stuff as you reread through your day’s notes. If you don’t revisit them, they are worthless.

Step 3: Synthesize

This is the MOST important part. It’s the action component. At the end of every training or book study I devote the last page of my notes as the “NOW WHAT?” page. The now what page has two columns. One is “This Summer.” That column consists of any steps I need to take before the school year even starts. If you need to purchase and create materials or curriculum that’s the column for it. The other column is “During the School Year.” Those are the actions I intend to take during the year to act on what I’ve learned. Both function as sort a checklist.


Lather, rinse, repeat for every training and study until your notebook is full. Hopefully that takes 2-4 years or you might have too much information to act on and you will fill up your shelf just as bad as your terrible former self.

Secret Step 4: Reread the “Now What?” pages every summer.

They are even more valuable after these methods are tried, failed, forgotten or suceeded. You can now look upon your summer development with the eyes of experience instead of the sometimes rosy, sometimes skeptical eyes of a newly trained summer you.







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