It’s that time of year again. We’re approaching summer and it will be here before you know it. You’ve worked extremely hard this school year and likely experienced both highs and lows along the way. For some of you, it might have been your best year yet. For others, it might be one to forget. For all of us, one thing is certain; next year will demand a new version of us. There are a few ways we can ensure that this upcoming year isn’t one to forget. A year where we thrive instead of just trying to survive. Below are 10 suggestions compiles with the help of my wonderful PLN (Personal Learning Network). I often hear the saying, "the smartest person in the room, is the room" and these educators prove this to be true day in and day out.
1. Switch to Airplane Mode (temporarily)
Impossible? Think again. Give yourself time to unplug and recharge. If you’re like most educators, you are in constant search for ways to improve. Often this means getting behind a screen of some type. Try going into airplane mode for a week. Can’t handle a week? Try a day. This will give you time to reflect and time to escape. Go for a walk, jog, run, bike, or swim. If those are out of the question, find time to watch a new TV show or movie. Yes, I know this involves a screen but it also provides that escape that gives our busy minds a rest. Another great way to recharge is to volunteer.
Find a local organization and offer to help. I know teachers give so much of themselves all school year round but we rise by lifting up others. Check out The United Way or Habitat for Humanity. Both are organizations I have supported in the past and it’s quite rewarding! Find some opportunities to volunteer here: https://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/volunteer, https://www.habitat.org/volunteer.
2. Reflection with Action
I came across a new “word” reflaction (reflection + action) from my friends at #NYEDchat. It is one thing to just reflect on something and it is another to reflect AND take action. This summer, make a list of 5 things that went well and with them, list your plan to ensure they go well again or how they can even be improved upon. Also, make a list of 5 things that didn’t go as planned or that you regret not doing and with these, describe actionable steps you can take to make this upcoming year even better. For example, I had every intention of doing things with microcredentials and badging this year with our teachers but never quite got it up and running. I also realized that you can’t do everything all the time. My action plan is to follow along with this year’s Badge Summit at ISTE 2018 in Chicago to get fresh ideas and also arrange department chair meetings to get different departments across our schools thinking about how they can push each other’s professional growth and celebrate each other through microcredentials and badging.
3. Join a Twitter Chat
Boost your PLN (Personal Learning Network) power by meeting new educators and learning with and from them. With many Twitter chats taking place 7 days a week, educators can easily pick a topic that fits their grade level or subject area. For example, the #ARVRinEDU chat on Wednesdays explore the latest trends in augmented, virtual and mixed reality. In just 30 minutes, you could walk away with a new tool or idea to explore this summer. Check out some of the always growing Twitter Chat schedules.
4. Enjoy a Book
Why not relax and learn at the same time? This is a great way to recharge our “batteries.” With so many books out there in education, picking the one that fits your need can be a daunting task. Check out some of the top sellers here for Computers and Technology Education. But, just because it isn’t a top seller doesn’t mean it’s not a book that will be one of your favorites. Here are a few that I plan to explore in hopes that they will help me grow.
Learner-Centered Innovation by Katie Martin
The Journey to the Y in You by Dene Gainey
Hacking School Culture: Designing Compassionate Classrooms by Angela Stockman & Ellen Feig Gray
Learning Transported by Jaime Donally
The Fire Within by Mandy Froelich
5. Listen to a Podcast
If you don’t have time for a book or are doing a lot of driving or traveling this summer, podcasts may be for you. A road trip, a jog or bike ride, cutting the grass, waiting in an airport, podcasts are accessible just about anywhere for a quick listen. With tools like Anchor FM, one could even begin their own podcast from their mobile device (which is a great opportunity for reflection discussed above). I recently took the jump and started Quest for Edlightment podcast with educators Mark Drollinger and Brian Sepe. Here are a few podcasts that I plan to explore this summer in hopes that they will help me grow. Bonus: they’re free!
DITCH that Textbook with Matt Miller
Leader of Learning with Dan Kreiness
Shukes and Giff The Podcast with Jen Giffen & Kim Pollishuke
StartEdUp with Don Wettrick
Educators Grow with John Wawczak
6. Take an Online Course
Gas prices often go up in the summer. Why drive to a course when you can access great online learning from the comfort of home, or poolside, or at a coffee shop? Hoonuit offers over 1500 courses to help educators grow and the offerings continue to grow regularly. Their Learn It, Do It, Share It, Prove It framework helps to make for meaningful experiences that last. Check out their list of courses and gather more information at https://www.hoonuit.com.
7. Get Certified and Earn PD/Graduate Credit
The big three offer online opportunities to improve your skills. Whether your district uses Google G Suite for Education, Microsoft Office 365, Apple products, or any combination of the three, staying up to date with these will always keep you one step ahead. Check out their certification opportunities here. Pick 1 and go for it. Try another the following summer!
8. Boost Digital Citizenship
Raise your hand if you teach digital citizenship! Glad your hand is raised. If not, raise it because we all are responsible for teaching digital citizenship. Modeling it to our students is critical. Summer is a great time to evaluate what programs and services you currently have in place in your school and district. It is a great time to reach out to the experts. I recently reached out to the Digital Citizenship Institute to support our school community in this critically important area that can easily get overlooked.
The Digital Citizenship Institute (DCI) is offering face-to-face summer PD for school communities. The DCI works with students, educators, and parents on changing the narrative around tech and social media use. Since it isn’t going away, why not learn ways to embrace it and empower students and schools? DigCitKids workshops are just one example of how the DCI is focused on students as global problem solvers and digital leaders. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
9. Get Outside and Make It Real
Two things that everybody can appreciate are fresh air and authenticity. The two often go together when it comes to learning. Getting out and about can help us make new connections and give some inspiration. It can also help you get your daily supply of Vitamin D!
Give Patio PD a try. This was suggested by Mandy Taylor, Instructional Coach from Hays CISD in Kyle, Texas. I’ve never heard of this before but, it looks like fun. Currently, there’s not one of these in my area, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start one. If only one other person showed up, it could even be worth it. There is magic in conversation. Enter #PatioPD on Twitter and see if anything is coming to a patio in your community.
Visit a Maker Faire. There is creative and making genius inside all of us. Sometimes we just need a little inspiration from others. There is a good chance you will walk away with an idea to bring making into your classroom regardless of your grade level or content area! Even administrators could use this as a way to build culture with teachers by creating a fun contest or competition for staff.
Join a Coffee Edu. Look for one in your area. I joined up with a Coffee Edu group in Rochester, NY. These are teachers an hour away from me but it is well worth the monthly commute to catch up and share ideas over coffee. There is no cost to attend and this could help you find your tribe, especially if you are part of a smaller school or district or the lone teacher in your school in a certain content area.
10. Addition By Subtraction
Take something off of your plate for next year. Too often we add another thing. What if we reflected and discovered something that we want to spend less time on so that something else could get more of our attention. Find that thing (or those things) and send it packing. For some, it might be grading everything, for others, it could be saying yes to too many projects or people. You can’t do it all and certainly don’t have to. It is crucial to be the best version of ourselves, and we shouldn’t have to justify saying no to something that can weigh us down. This will help us to be our best for kids.
I hope you find at least one skill here that will help you master some summer learning. These are just 10 skills that can help make this summer a summer of growth for any educator. Do you have a skill you would add to the list? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with me on Twitter at @m_drez or add your comment below. I am always looking for ways to grow myself. If the summer seems to be getting too busy and you need a break, always refer back to the first skill in the list above. Enjoy the summer and all that it can offer!
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