I can still remember the summer after my first year of teaching. My roommate, a fellow high school English teacher, and I literally sat on the couch for a week watching episodes of The Real World, reveling in the fact that we were getting paid to rest!
However, as soon as that week was over, I immediately began a Shakespeare course that culminated in a week-long trip to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Canada. I loved this teacher-targeted professional opportunity, and I really valued the time I had to truly immerse myself in my studies.
I was a better teacher after that summer professional development opportunity, and have found wonderful PD courses and experiences every summer since then!
The Importance of Professional Development for Teachers
As teachers, we all need education and professional development hours to renew our licenses, but it is also important to stay current in our field and show our own students that we, too, are learners. When students can see that their teachers are on an educational journey alongside them, they have better rapport with and respect for their educators. Therefore, teachers should be proud of the education and professional development opportunities they take part in and should actively seek out new ones. Some benefits include:
Taking classes helps reminds teachers of the struggles their learners face each day.
Taking classes also allows teachers to reflect on assessment practices and see assessment from the side of the learner rather than assessor.
New learning allows teachers to become knowledgeable of educational trends.
Unique opportunities allow for interactions with colleagues from other schools and districts.
How To Find Time for Professional Development
Once a teacher finds an amazing and fun professional development opportunity, it may be difficult for him or her to take advantage of it, because of issues such as the need to find childcare.
When I took my National Writing Project class, I opted to take the class in Cincinnati, where my mother lived, so she could watch my two year-old son each day while I commuted 45 minutes each way to Miami’s campus.
When I took other correspondence courses, I worked in the attic of my in-laws’ house, while the rest of the family watched the children. No matter what the circumstances, do not be afraid to ask for help in making PD work for you.
Remember, online or correspondence classes can be a great way to work on your own time to get your summer professional development done.
Teacher Education and Professional Development Opportunities
I want to share some of my favorite teacher professional development opportunities as well as to encourage teachers to seek out new ways to learn. It’s always hard to find time to get enough credits to keep our licenses current while also finding teacher education and professional development opportunities that are enriching and meaningful.
However, despite the many benefits of professional development in the summer, teachers can have a hard time finding opportunities and the time to complete activities. To help alleviate any and all issues surrounding summer PD, I’ve created a few lists to help teachers and districts.
Look in state and national educational magazines.
Look at the National Foundation for the Arts website.
Research Smithsonian Institutes’ Summer Opportunities.
Call and research local museums and nonprofit centers (such as botanical gardens).
Call local and state universities and ask about teacher programs.
Look on your state and national professional organization websites.
7 Fun Professional Development Ideas for Teachers
1. TAKE A LEARNER'S EDGE OR MASTERCLASS
I have no endorsement deal with Learner’s Edge, but I have taken many classes from them on classroom management, teacher leadership, dealing with parents, and so on. I loved these classes because each included a book to read and the opportunity to reflect on how to use the ideas presented in one’s own classroom. The work was always meaningful and manageable, time-wise.
Additionally, I have a FREE Building Vocabulary for Success on SAT and ACT Exams Masterclass open for enrollment! In my 3-part masterclass, you'll learn how to expand and enrich students' vocabulary knowledge and help them cultivate skills that contribute to success on the SAT and ACT exams. At the end of the course you'll receive a Certificate of Participation.
2. FIND AN ACCOUNTABILITY BUDDY
I love reading and discussing new professional development books, but I need to be held accountable or the book will sit on my nightstand unread. That’s why I always enlist at least one teacher to read the book with me.
I am especially excited this summer, as I’m reading the professional development book Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Prost with our OCTELA colleagues.
3. LISTEN TO PODCASTS
I am a huge podcast listener and between Penny Kittle’s BookLove podcast and Colby Sharp and Travis Yonker’s The Yarn, I learn all about teaching techniques, great books, and authors in less than an hour of listening a week.
Teachers can turn on a podcast while gardening, cooking, or cleaning to catch up on educational trends and new books.
4. TAKE PART IN AN ONLINE CHALLENGE OR MINI-COURSE
There are many online challenges— my current favorite is Donalyn Miller’s The Summer Book-a-Day challenge. While I always fall very short of the goal, I love the challenge and seeing what other colleagues are reading.
The Nerdy Book Club is one of my favorite online organizations and I have met many new friends and colleagues through interacting with the club online.
5. ATTEND AN ONLINE WORKSHOP OR WEBINAR
I look forward to leading my own online workshop on the SAT/ACT exams later this summer.
What I love best about online workshops and webinars is that teachers can watch or attend when they want, and without leaving the house. So much new learning can take place with colleagues around the globe, without a plane ticket required!
6. JOIN BOOK CLUBS
My good friend Courtney started a teacher book club a few years ago, and I love it because it pushes me to read books I would not pick up on my own. From the latest Toni Morrison novel to The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, I am a more diverse reader because of my book club.
7. ATTEND AN INSTITUTE OR WORKSHOP
I have saved my favorite idea for last. I have attended workshops with the Ohio University Ping Institute, Ohio State Humanities Council, and several of my friends have been a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company or Holocaust Institute summer programs.
From travel opportunities to free resources, these institutes are a great way to meet new colleagues and become re-energized as both a teacher and learner.