Reading for Professional Growth

This blog post about reading books for professional development was written by Carmen Carpenter. Carmen has taught music in a school setting as well as in her home studio for more than 30 years. Teaching combines two of her favourite things: music and kids! Besides teaching music, Carmen loves spending time with family playing games, working puzzles and watching movies. She’s also an avid reader and loves taking long walks on her local, woodsy trails.

A while back, I decided to make reading a part of my work. Rather than thinking of reading as a luxury relegated to off-the-clock hours, I put it in my planner as a part of my work day. And it has made a world of difference in my teaching.

I love to read. It’s relaxing, enjoyable, educational, thought-provoking, motivational and just plain fun.😃

Reading can also be “work” because it makes me better at my work. The books, articles and blog posts I read about learning and teaching make me a better teacher. And when I’m a better teacher, my business can grow.

After all, great teaching is your best business strategy!

Why read?

Reading tends to make me think. When I’m thinking, I start to consider improvements. Then I start to think about improving, which makes my work better.

Reading gives me new ideas which lead to better systems and approaches.

Reading books for professional development is work. Hopefully enjoyable work, but work nonetheless. In order to feel like you’re reading as your work (and not just so you can justify sitting in your pyjamas or work-out clothes a little longer each morning), here are a few tips to make your “work reading” more meaningful.

Work-Reading Tip 1: Schedule It

Most people would agree that you’re much more likely to take something seriously when it’s in your planner in ink. (Or in your smartphone’s calendar with a notification, if that’s your style.)

But I’m not simply suggesting you schedule reading time in between emails or lesson planning or invoicing. I recommend that you schedule professional development reading time for a part of the day that you’re most likely to absorb the books you’re reading and draw connections to your teaching.

For myself, that’s in the morning after a workout and meditation – with a cup of coffee, of course. I find that as the day progresses, my ability to focus wanes or I end up getting drowsy.

Determine for yourself the time that works for you to get the most out of your reading, then schedule it.

Work-Reading Tip 2: Write About It

One of the best things you can do after your reading is spend time reflecting and remembering what you’ve read. Get a journal and jot down some key points that stood out for you, and how you might act on them.

Write questions that come up during your reading. Sometimes these questions will prompt an idea (or several ideas) that you want to unpack in your journal. But don’t feel the need to answer your questions right away. The answers may come later as you continue reading.

Work-Reading Tip 3: Prime the Pump

Before diving into a book or article, ask yourself, “What do I need to learn today? What’s in this for me specifically?”

Learning experts like Barbara Oakley, author of Learning How to Learn’, tell us to read the chapter titles and section headings before reading as a way to get our brains ready for the material.

When you do this priming, your brain will engage better with the content. It’s as though your mind is already working on understanding the reading before you even begin.

Pretty cool, huh?

Work-Reading Tip 4: Act On It

Think about what you can do that very day to apply what you’ve read. 

  • Is there a way you can use the information you gleaned?
  • How about an idea you can flesh out for later use?
  • Which of your students would benefit from what you learnt?

When I read ’Talent Is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, I relayed the author’s story about the football player Jerry Rice to one of my teenage students. Through this story, my student was more motivated to keep at the not-so-fun stuff (in his case, scales and technique) because that’s what would help him become a great musician.

Work-Reading Tip 5: Schedule Again

Set aside time once a week or so to look over your journal notes. This will give you a chance to expound on the information and pursue your ideas.

If you don’t ever look back at your notes, you’ll likely forget what you’ve read or those cool ideas will go to waste. You’ll have notebooks full of notes that just sit and collect dust.

Don’t let all that good fodder go to seed!

Real-World Impacts

  • When I read ’Make It Stick by Peter C Brown, I reconsidered the way I was teaching seconds and thirds. I ended up creating a better-sequenced song list, which ensured my students took the best approach in making that all-important reading skill stick.
  • ’Atomic Habits by James Clear inspired me to re-think my assignment sheets, formulating them to better encourage a practice habit. 
  • The 1-Page Marketing Plan’ by Allan Dib helped me shape my target audience, making my marketing efforts much more worthwhile. 

Although reading is a pleasurable activity, it’s also a transformational one. Change your mindset about reading books for professional development and you’ll find your work changed for the better.😊

What’s your best time of day to read for work?

Tell us about it in the comments.

For more professional development magic, check out the Colourful Keys hub page devoted to Your Music Studio Business.

Leave a comment

Item added to cart.
0 items -  0.00