By Teachers, For Teachers
“I’d love to do some professional development, but it’s just so expensive!”
If that sounds familiar, take heart: here are some activities that are low cost, but high impact – guaranteed to make you a more effective teacher next fall.
During the school year, you probably don’t read much beyond the assignments you’re grading. So this summer take time to read. Study research in your subject area or on education in general.
My Recommended Teacher Books
Brush up on your teaching skills with a book on teaching techniques, service learning, project-based learning, or discipline (try Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Road to College).
Twitter is also an amazing resources for developing a professional learning community. Pinterest is also climbing the charts as a great way to share teaching resources. Check out TeachHUB on Pinterest to find tons of subject-specific teacher resource boards.
Yahoo also hosts free groups; a recent search turned up everything from kindergarten teachers swapping discipline tips to high school science teachers discussing experiments. You can even form your own group with colleagues from your school; Yahoo and Google make it easy (and free). Every group has different expectations about participation, etc, so it’s important to find out (or establish) those guidelines up front, but this can be a great way to stay connected.
In the fall, TeachHUB is rolling out an expanded social network with discussion forums, chats, groups, blogs and more to share with and learn from your fellow TeachHUB educators. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to be one of the first educators onboard!
Summer can be an excellent time to explore a new skill you may be able to use in the classroom.
Looking to integrate technology?
There are free tutorials online to help you learn to teach using PowerPoint presentations, to develop your own webquests, to build your own web pages, to teach using podcasts, or even to use mobile technology in the classroom.
A great place to start is with these 12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in the Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers.
Not interested in technology?
Why not learn the basics of another language, especially if you have ELL or bilingual students? The parents would love it if you could greet them in their own language. Even learning an “arts and crafts” activity may give you ideas for a fun class project.
Looking for a way to commemorate the highlights of the year that’s ending? Need a reminder about why you got into teaching in the first place? Creating a teacher’s scrapbook can be a great way to go.
Buy a scrapbook and turn it into your new storage place for all the student notes, photographs, certificates, or favorite student artifacts. Not artistic? Don’t worry – just try to put things in there in roughly chronological order.
Eager to stretch those creative muscles? Combine the mementoes with your own written contributions – short comments or stories about your favorite moments. You may be surprised how meaningful it is to look back on your work and acknowledge the good times; this book may become your go-to solution to recover after a bad day.
How much easier would your daily life be if the classroom was organized, if you knew where to find the files on your computer, if you had lesson plans prepared for a substitute?
Take some time this summer to get organized. You might be surprised how easy it is to accomplish these tasks when you aren’t getting 25 new assignments a day, and you’ll feel better about starting the new school year!
During the school year, field trips can be a hassle – where to go, how to pay for it, when to schedule it. But exploring local options can be a fun activity for your family and give you ideas for next fall. Look in the newspaper or check out a travel guidebook for your community. What museums, historical sites, or national parks are in your area?
Set a goal to visit one or two each month. You’ll learn about your community, and you may find several new field trip possibilities. If your school budget won’t accommodate field trips, take a lot of photographs. If nothing else, you can put them up in the classroom or add them to your PowerPoint presentations when you do those units.
If you can’t take your students out to the real world, bring the real world to them. Many nonprofit organizations and charitable groups offer low cost or free speakers on important topics from the humane treatment of animals to the experiences of Vietnam War veterans.
Some large companies encourage employees to donate time to the community; investigate whether a professional in your field – a scientist or engineer, for example – will volunteer to come in and talk to your students. Local universities may also have professors or graduate students who could come in and speak on a specific topic. If you take the time to research it now, you’ll have the information when you need it.
Take advantage of your Netflix subscription or the nearest RedBox; you may be surprised by what you learn. Keep an eye out for specific details that may liven up a boring lecture, or watch for a portion that is worth screening in class.
Teaching English? Seek out a documentary that supplements your knowledge of the time period in which your novels are set, whether it’s World War I, the Great Depression, or the Vietnam War.
Search online or visit the library to find materials to supplement your lessons: a magazine article, YouTube video, podcast, or newspaper clipping.
Read a book on the topic (whether you'll assign it to students to read or not). You could introduce your students to a new lesson by showing them a children’s book on the same topic, or supplement your history textbook with the writings of Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, or other present-day historians who tell stories beyond the basic facts.
Choose your most boring (or more gently "least student-appreciated") unit and find something to spice it up.
Every teacher knows the lessons that don’t work – the topic you’ve never figured out how to teach, the subject you hate, or the activity that needs to be retired. Set a goal for yourself to revise or totally rewrite some of those lessons this summer.
Even if you only write one new lesson a month, you’ll have three new lessons to try in September. You have more time to think about the lesson plan, do research, or sleep on it long enough to come up with a really interesting activity. You’re not going to have this much time or energy next February, so take advantage of it!
You’ll be a better teacher if you take time for yourself. Choose part of the summer – a week, a couple of weeks, or even a month – when you will absolutely, under no circumstances, do work. It may be a struggle, but you’ll come back refreshed and ready to go!
Whatever you choose to do, use your summer wisely and you will be a better, more effective teacher next fall!
How do you sharpen your teaching skills over the summer? Share in the comments section!