5 Tips for Surviving Summer Professional Development
Professional development (PD) in general really is improving. PD is transitioning from the one-shot, "sit-and-get" conference or large group meeting to a plethora of alternative structures. Some of these structures can be extended into June, July, and August, or modified for the traditional "off" months. Summer professional development doesn't have to steal huge amounts of time away from your family, involve costly and stressful travel to a soul-sucking conference, or make you feel like you never got the time to recharge your professional batteries. Done right, it can be an amazing, energizing experience for you (and your colleagues!)
Here are five ways to do it:
1. Find Professional Development that Inspires (Yes, it Exists!)
Remember the feeling you got when you walked into your classroom for the first time? The butterflies in your stomach when you taught your first class? The sense of pride and accomplishment you felt when you helped a student learn a new skill or move from a failing to a passing grade? Good professional development will make you feel that way over and over again, especially if you are the one driving it.
Here is one example of what you might call inspiring PD: Two teachers, supported by a local grant, travel to England over the summer months to take part in a workshop on Shakespeare. In addition to their own learning, they bring back new methods for teaching The Bard to their high schoolers and make plans to engage their classes in a virtual field trip of The Globe, share resources with their colleagues throughout the district, and develop a partnership with a sister school across the pond, using the school's learning management system (LMS) to support and streamline the process.
Even if you simply need a few credit hours to renew your license, you can find something that inspires you, not just something to "check the boxes" and be done with. Be inspired!
2. Grow Your PLN
Summer is the perfect time to create or expand your professional learning network (PLN). Subscribe to a content aggregator, such as Feedly, for news and interesting articles related to education. Use TweetDeck to follow education-related hashtags, join pedagogical conversations, share resources, and schedule future tweets in a way that matches your summer schedule. You could even use the summer months to start an education blog. You have so much to contribute - and you may be surprised who will notice and start reading!
Your learning management system should have ways to integrate, manage, and curate content gleaned from every corner of the interwebs. You can also use your LMS to stay in touch with other professionals locally, regionally, nationally, and around the world. The era of "close the door and teach" is over. In a 24/7, hyperconnected wirearchy, you are a key part of an incredible network of professional educators. Grow and participate in the network!
3. Step Up Your Game with EdTech
It can feel so overwhelming to try and learn new educational technology tools or incorporate them into lesson plans during the school year. Summer can be a great opportunity to learn something new in the field of EdTech. Perhaps you are ready to take your LMS game to the next level, learning how to create, curate, and use (and teach your students how to create, curate, and use) digital mash-ups. Maybe you just want to learn a few quick and fun ways to conduct formative assessment in the classroom, such as Kahoot or Quizizz.
Whatever your ultimate goal, summer is a great time to play in the sandbox of EdTech. You have time and (hopefully!) a judgement-free zone at your domicile on your side as you learn and experiment with new tools and concepts.
4. Color Outside the Lines
Educators are such good rule followers. For your summer professional development experience, however, it's okay to think different about your needs and preferred format. For example, you could choose to attend an EdCamp or an Unconference. Imagine a PD experience with no vendors, no sales pitches disguised as sessions, and no gurus hawking their newest book. Whoever shows up gets to decide what gets learned. You vote with your feet as you move from room to room, learning from your colleagues. Feeling bold? Lead a session! Your passion and willingness to share will inspire others.
5. Color Inside the Lines
Okay, okay… not all conventional choices are bad. If you just want to travel and attend a popular regional or national conference, more power to you! Are you able to take your family or significant other with you? Can you turn the professional learning opportunity into an extended family vacation? Will you network with fellow professionals and add them to your PLN? Conventional options should be of your choosing and of high interest and engagement for you.
Summer is your time to rest, recharge, and recommit. Summer PD should be intrinsically motivating and reflective of who you are as a teacher and lifelong learner. It shouldn't feel forced or mandated, nor should it place an undue burden on you or your family. Summer PD should be a celebration of what compelled you to join the profession in the first place, and help reaffirm your love for kids and your unbelievably critical role in helping them reach their full potential as learners.
Share your own tips for summer professional development with us on Twitter @Schoology