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During the school year, teachers are master balancers. In addition to the daily diet of rigorous academic content and classroom management, colorful sticky notes and intricate calendars remind us of pending tasks. Conferences next week! Make parent phone calls! Prep for Friday PLC! With all the hubbub, it can be overwhelming to tackle a large project or learn a new skill.

Fortunately, summer offers a slightly slower pace that’s perfect for tackling serious professional development. Conferences and seminars give you access to experts but they’re not your only option. If you’re looking for a more customized plan, here are a few ideas to get you started on your own DIY summer professional development.

Tap Into Local Resources

Students love when we make lessons come alive with a tactile artifact or a perfectly timed field trip. Take time this summer to connect with local resources that can expand your lessons beyond the textbook. Start by making a quick list of local museums, aquariums, or zoos you want to visit and what collections might connect with your academic goals. Most institutions have an educational coordinator who can help you brainstorm the best way to access museum resources, direct you to field trip grants, or discuss increasingly popular “backwards field trips”. Even if you can’t fit a field trip into your curriculum, museum visits may yield helpful access to primary source documents.

Think beyond admission-charging institutions. Universities and historical societies often have impressive artifact collections and archives available to the public. Businesses and camps are another out-of-the-box option. Maybe a local yoga studio has resources on building kids’ social emotional skills. When 5th graders at my school studied ecosystems, we followed up with a trip to a local camp to see their functioning aquaponics system. Your community is full of educational gems so use the summer to uncover which ones work for you.

Improve Your Tech IQ

Summer professional development is a perfect time to experiment with new technology. If you’re already tech savvy, challenge yourself to grab an Echo Pen to prep for recording mini-lessons or set up a green screen to practice for the live history broadcasts you’ve been wanting to work into your social studies curriculum. If you don’t have any new tech tool in mind, check out a compilation list of new Education World’s coding class.

Improving your tech IQ doesn't mean you have to choose cutting edge tools. Summer PD is about working on skills new to you. Choose technology challenge that fits your needs. If you’ve been itching to move homework assignments to Google Classroom, get going! If you keep hearing about engaging classroom websites, start thinking about how you might use one. Whatever technology you decide to focus on, savor the extra time you have to master the basic functions and plan how to implement it in your classroom.

Harness the Web

The internet offers a wealth of free resources for teachers but it usually takes some time to determine which ones will work for your summer development plan. First, figure out what format you’re interested in. If you want the weight of a book in your hand, use the web to find curated reading suggestions for teachers. You can plan a trip to your local library based on teacher book lists on everything from classroom differentiation to learning innovation. If audio is more your beat, download a podcast app and learn from teachers, psychologists, and other school-based professionals. I like the Harvard EdCast for up-to-date interviews with education experts and authors. For conversation and connection, participate in Twitter ed chats. Many professional organizations host and publicize their own or you can use this spreadsheet to find one that works for you.

Make It Your Own

Whatever combination of reading, visiting, or Tweeting you decide upon, make it your own. Part of being a teacher leader is prioritizing growth. This summer, design a professional development plan that’s perfect for your needs.

 

Written by Marissa King

Marissa teaches 5th grade at Tulsa Public Schools where she spills tea and misuses the coolest slang. She is also a Yale National Fellow.