Summer Professional Development
I can not believe it’s the end of July already! Where did the summer go?
As a teacher, I love summer. But not for the reasons most people (who are not teachers) think. Most of society thinks teachers sit around and relax all summer. Ok, all you teachers, laugh with me – HAHAHAHAHAHA! I made a little meme to express this…
Yes, I love summer – but it’s because it gives me a chance to refresh and renew my perspective. I have a few precious moments to breathe and reflect on my year. And let me tell you, this past year was a tough one. Lots of stuff going on at my school, and I must admit I was fighting a losing battle with burnout. I’ve had a rough couple of years in my personal life. I was just tired.
But, after the school year ended, I found myself, for the first time in a while, really excited about making a change. Instead of just lip service, I really started to put some effort into making steps toward change.
My first step was to get my curriculum organized. I’m a pretty creative teacher when it comes to my subject area, and if a teacher comes to me in the morning and says, “Our class is studying Polar Bears today, can you work that into your computer lessons?” – by the time I see their class that afternoon I have something ready to go. But I am currently almost 8 months pregnant, and I wanted to have a more solid plan in place for when I go on Maternity Leave and when I come back. So I put ALL of my lessons, from the past 10 years, onto a wiki that I created. It took several weeks to upload lesson plans, files, and sort through everything. Then, I sorted the ‘unsorted’ items into which grade levels they would work best with, and moved a few things around that didn’t work as well as I wanted them to in the past. Next, I took each grade level and mapped out each week of the year – 40 weeks – and placed the lessons in an order that made sense for that grade level. Once I was done that, I filled in the holes with extra activities I had but had never tried, or lessons/ideas I found on Pinterest, online, or came up with on my own. So, after this process, I have EVERY lesson planned for EVERY GRADE for EVERY WEEK OF THE SCHOOL YEAR!!!
This is such a great feeling! Currently I’m in the last phase of planning, in which I add detailed lesson plans for each lesson, including referenced to the various standards I use, such as the NETS for Students, the Maryland Technology Literacy Standards, and the Common Core Standards, among others.
Ideas for cheap and free PD…
But wait- there’s more! I like to learn and grow over the summer, so I am always seeking out free, or at least inexpensive professional development opportunities. Here are my top five ways to find your own PD over the summer, in no particular order:
I heard about this from a fellow Discovery Education teacher, @CLykowski, who led a workshop about it at this summer’s DEN Summer Institute (see #2 below). You can review Google’s training materials for free, and then take the Qualified Individual Tests for each part of the Google Apps for Education suite for a total of $90! That’s not bad, considering the price for many PD workshops STARTS at $200.
If you’re not a DEN STAR, you should be! The DEN is an incredible online network of thousands of teachers from all over the world who love nothing more than sharing and learning from each other. And it’s free!! Every summer, they have a week long conference, usually held on a college campus, in a different location in the US. This is THE BEST conference I have ever attended. The camaraderie, the learning, the fun, and the willingness of others to help and share is unparalleled. And, if you apply but don’t get in, or can’t attend, they share several sessions online via Livestream and their website.
I put these two sites together because they have the same format. People find web pages they want to remember and “pin” or “clip” then to their own virtual bulletin boards. I’ve pinned and clipped tons of resources that I can use in my classroom. With just a few minutes on Pinterest, I can find resources on just about any topic I need help with or want to learn more about.
I follow several leaders in the ed tech field on Twitter, and they often share inspirational blog posts or quick tweets about ed-techy stuff that leads me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of learning opportunities. If you’re not sure where to start, some of my favorites are Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher), Richard Byrne (@rmbyrne), Dean Shareski (@shareski), and Rich Kiker (@rkiker). Oh, and don’t forget to follow me, too! (@agentlaurasmith)
I used to be an avid user of Google Reader, but when it shut down recently I needed an alternative. I quickly adapted over to Feedly, which let me import all of my feeds very easily. You can search Feedly for blogs you are interested in; just sign up and use the search box to search for any topics that you are interested in, such as “teaching” or “educational technology.” Then if you like the blogs you find, click “Subscribe” and feedly will deliver the latest posts to you each day, all in one place. I learn so much from the blogs I read, and get great ideas of websites to use in my classroom.
So there’s my top ways of learning and growing over the summer. Now, with only 3 weeks of “freedom” before I go back to school full time, I can start to take these things I’ve learned and start sharing them with others and putting them to practice in my own curriculum.
What ways do YOU learn and grow over the summer? Share them in the comments.