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The Best Summer Professional Development

professional development

As May draws to a close, summer is finally in sight. For many exhausted teachers, spending the next few months as far away from the classroom as possible might be the most ideal way to recharge batteries. But for others, the leisure time ahead provides a rare opportunity for self-directed learning. During the year, school leaders or districts might determine the course of professional development, but the summers are a whole different story. Finally, anyone who wants to learn new things about education can explore what genuinely interests them. Even better, some of the best options are anywhere from inexpensive to completely free of charge.

The Teacher Down the Hall

As the old saying goes, the best professional development is the teacher down the hall. To phrase it another way, teachers tend to learn the most from their colleagues, especially those in proximity. Provided that we choose to surround ourselves with other lifelong learners who have a growth mindset approach to teaching and learning, collaborating with a trusted teacher friend is a highly practical approach to learning.

Since the summertime tends to be more flexible, think about ways to make a collaborative experience enjoyable. While meeting at a school building or library has benefits like ease of access to technology or materials, it can be more creatively stimulating to meet in more pleasant surroundings, like a park. Using a phone as a hotspot makes online planning or a research deep dive possible anywhere. It might also be refreshing to put the laptops aside and do a deep dive into a hard copy resource, like a book on a shared topic of interest. From a more practical perspective, these meetings present an opportunity to discuss what worked in the prior year, what was not as successful, and how lessons and units can be adapted to best serve the needs of incoming students.

Summer Reading

During the year, most teachers do not have the luxury of reading education books, even though there are so many out there with incredible ideas. Around this time of year, publishers may offer promotional discounts (or even complimentary “desk copies” in some cases) of their more recent releases. It can be hard to know where to start, but most education publishers have online catalogs available. Even better, websites like Amazon or Google books have a “look inside” or “preview” feature that provides readers with a sneak peek into the early pages of most books. As a rule, if the table of contents and early pages make someone want to read more, a book is likely to be worth the investment.

Depending on whether teachers have colleagues with similar interests, it can be more enjoyable to form a book club and read together, but that is entirely dependent on whether that option is appealing. The important thing is to pick a book that truly sparks interest. Education houses publish an array of appealing choices each year on any topic from strategies for teaching language learners to differentiation methods to equity in education. There is something for everyone, and this type of professional learning can be accomplished by the pool. What’s not to love about that?


While in-person conferences or classes are enjoyable, online platforms provide a far more affordable way to engage in professional learning. Even better, the experience can be achieved in the comfort of home, at a vacation getaway, or even outside on a beautiful day. The question is, how to find the best option when there are so many educational organizations, nonprofits, and schools offering a massive range of choices?

To figure out where to start, the first step is to brainstorm places that have specialized niches of focus in the field. For example, anyone wanting to explore ideas related to leadership or supervision might wish to check out ASCD’s webinar series. For a range of hot topics from ChatGPT to wellbeing, Education Week also has a number of free webinars that are released consistently. And of course, content-driven organizations like NCTM list a variety of learning opportunities on their websites. The hard part is not finding something worthwhile. It’s finding the time to watch and learn everything we would like!

Of course, spending time in the summer on professional learning is certainly not for everyone, especially when the sun is shining and there are no early wake-up calls in the morning. The worst type of professional development is the kind that is compulsory, so there is no need to do anything with free time that doesn’t sound appealing. But given the energy and bandwidth, it can be useful to take a few hours here and there during a slower, more forgiving time to learn about something that sounds interesting, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Who knows? Maybe that one book about flipped learning will spark all kinds of innovative ideas and inspiration for the coming school year.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less and Lead Like a Teacher. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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