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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Building Content Knowledge
Theresa London Cooper

As educators we are often concerned about building our students’ content knowledge. After all, if we want our students to exercise high levels of thinking, we must give them something to think about. But what about us? How do we build our own knowledge? What are some practical things we can do to learn more about the subject(s) we teach? There are several practices that work for me.

First and foremost as I have written on many occasions – read. It is worthwhile to read newspapers, magazines, professional journals and books. Don’t limit yourself to any one type of reading material. Surfing the Internet is another way to gather useful information. I have created my own reference materials by selecting valuable and pertinent information I’ve located on the Internet. You would be surprised what you can gather by noticing the information that surrounds you. For example, several years ago, I purchased a box of Celestial Seasonings tea. Shortly after, as I prepared a cup of tea, on the side of the box, I noticed an amazing poem giving parents tips on how to rear their children. I used the poem in a parent workshop. I still cannot believe I found the poem on a tea box. By the way Celestial Seasoning tea boxes have wonderful quotes and saying. The next time you visit the supermarket, take a few minutes to read a few. You just might find something you can use.p

Second, engage in conversations with other colleagues who may practice within your field and in allying fields. I have learned a tremendous amount by talking to other professionals. Take advantage of networking opportunities like forums, workshops, and conferences to engage in conversation.

Third, dare I say it - watch television. Judiciously. PBS has fantastic documentaries and programs on a wide range of issues. It has helped me broaden my understanding of literacy by pointing out connections and relationships between topics that I had not previously considered.

Finally, listening to books on tape is great way to build content knowledge. I have found it to be a relaxing way to think about important information as I can replay it and jot down notes to reflect on what I am hearing and learning.

What do you do to deepen your knowledge?

E-mail Theresa


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