I have been on the road a lot lately. Most often, I am either flying or the passenger in the van. (Mr Allan prefers to drive rather than be a passenger). When we travel for work, I am usually presenting and we have an opportunity to meet with and learn from other early childhood professionals. I know a lot of people have moved toward online versions of training and some people only attend conferences close to home, but I have found the greatest value to my professional development in traveling outside of my local area.
Coming from a smaller area, local trainings tend to consist of the same people. Even if a different trainer is brought in, the audience tends to be similar. As a trainer, I know that even though the trainer coming in can be an important piece of the puzzle, the opportunity to meet and network with other early childhood professionals far outweighs anything I have to "teach." (I honestly prefer to consider myself a facilitator rather than a teacher, but that is a whole different topic!) Having time to really connect with others in the field, to share ideas, and ask each other questions is invaluable.
Attending an amazing training and connecting with others gives me a chance to question my practices. Yes, I said question my practices. I believe that when you stop questioning your practices, if you truly think you are doing it all and you are no longer wondering if you are doing what is best for children, you need to get out of the field! This journey with children is not static, the world continues to change, and when we stop questioning, when we stop learning and working to do things just a little bit better, our programs suffer, and our children are far too valuable to let that happen.
Spending time with other professionals not only allows me to question my practice, but finding similar people and programs is also validating. It helps "give you permission" (for lack of a better phrase) to keep doing what you know is best for young children even with the outside pressures to push practices that are not developmentally appropriate.
I love gaining different perspectives and really having an opportunity to learn and grow. I love knowing that I have found my tribe and that I will continue to learn, to grow, and to change. I love to watch the change happen all around me, and I know that all of these connections and small changes at up, and this is truly how we all evolve....