12 great ways to grow as an educator this summer

Summer is the time to unwind. But it's also perfect for growing as an educator. Here are some ideas you can try. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Summer is the time to unwind. But it’s also perfect for growing as an educator. Here are some ideas you can try. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Ah, summer … that time when all teachers leave school work and school thoughts behind for months to lounge by the pool.

Right? Well, in more than a decade of teaching, it’s never been that way for me! Honestly, I’ve never wanted my education career to take a major hiatus for months at a time.

Summer is when I learn about new philosophies, new ideas, new tools and new strategies. It’s when I can look at the big picture and recenter myself.

The beauty of being an educator AND living in today’s digital world can put professional learning and growth in a super accelerator. And the best part about it — some of the most quality learning experiences are completely free.

Here are 12 ways you can grow as an educator this summer:

1. Make a STEM connection. Whether you teach science, technology, engineering and/or math — or not — there are ways to fortify what you teach with STEM. Some teachers incorporate programming robots into lessons. Others have students code things that connect with what they’re learning. Investigate how you can infuse STEM into what you do, because STEM is the direction more and more jobs are going.

2. Play Summer PD Bingo. Amber Teamann and Melinda Miller, principals in Texas and Missouri, respectively, have created a challenge for their teachers. Summer PD Bingo is a bingo board full of ideas to help teachers spark creativity and innovation — or just a little fun! Check out their blog post here, where you can view and download the Summer PD Bingo board.

seesaw-ca-squarelogo-14630884941333. Try something new. It could be a new digital tool or a new experience to open your eyes to a different part of the world. My “something new” is Seesaw. It has never fit into my classroom plans but I know that so many teachers do amazing things with it. As I travel and present at schools and conferences this summer, I’ve set up a Seesaw class for my family. It’ll be like our own private social media, where we can stay connected and have fun. (Thanks Karly Moura for the idea!)

4. Make the most of your time — and share it! Here’s another fun idea from an elementary principal. (I wish I had these folks leading my school!) Matthew Arend, principal of Sigler Elementary School in McKinney, Texas, has put his own spin on bingo — Summer Selfie Bingo. In his post, he talks about the importance of lifestyle and school culture. To build it, he’s encouraging teachers to share their summer adventures with each other. See his post for the bingo board and more information.

shift this5. Read Shift This! by Joy Kirr. I’ve been impressed with how Joy runs her seventh-grade class in Arlington Heights, Illinois, for a while. She’s probably best known on Twitter and in her blog for incorporating Genius Hour, but she’s constantly trying new things — little shifts in her practice. Shift This! is at the top of my summer reading list and, having flipped through it several times, I can’t wait to dig in. If you’d like to make changes in your class or school, Joy has some advice about how to start, how to build the classroom environment, and how to deal with resistance.

6. Check out a great book to improve your practice. It seems that more and more teachers and others from various walks of education are collecting their best ideas and publishing them in books. This is what I love about the books published by Dave Burgess Consulting. All of their books are written conversationally and are full of great anecdotes and ideas from the classroom. They are my publisher, and their approach to getting educators published is why I’m passionate about their mission. Click here to check out their books on Amazon.

7. Follow the #ISTE17 hashtag. In late June, the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference will descend on San Antonio, Texas. Tens of thousands of educators will meet, share ideas, collaborate and build connections. The best part is that you can take part in the learning from afar via Twitter. Follow the #ISTE17 hashtag for ideas, reflections from sessions and more. There’s even a #NotAtISTE17 for those who aren’t there to commiserate and share together.

8. Attend a teaching conference. They’re all over the place. Summer is prime time for districts to offer professional development — and to organize teacher conferences. I’ll be at lots of them this summer (see my events calendar on the right side of this page). I love the model my home state — Indiana — offers. The state Department of Education offers grants to school districts to host educational technology conferences. It’s called the Summer of eLearning. These conferences bring in great keynote speakers, offer great breakout sessions and often cost very little or nothing.

9. Join us for a Ditch That Textbook book study this summer. Again this summer, the #DitchBook team and I will be hosting a Ditch That Textbook book study on Twitter. Have you read the book? This will be a perfect opportunity to share your thoughts and revisit ideas. Haven’t read it? Go get it now — or just join us on the #DitchBook hashtag Thursday nights at 10pm Eastern / 9pm Central / 8pm Mountain / 7pm Pacific. (There’s even been talk of a Snapchat #BookSnaps-style study. Stay tuned on the hashtag for more info!)

10. Listen to some podcasts. If you haven’t jumped on the podcast bandwagon yet, now might be the time. Podcasts are like on-demand radio shows you can download or stream to your Internet ready device (i.e. smart phone, tablet, computer). With smart phones and tablets, there are apps to download before you can start listening (iOS: free) (Android: list of best apps). After that, track down some educational podcasts and listen! Fellow blogger Kasey Bell and I host the Google Teacher Tribe podcast, where we share Google news and updates as well as creative and innovative ways to use Google tools in the classroom. We’re part of the Education Podcast Network — a great collection of amazing podcasts for teachers. Here are some more of my favorites:

11. Chat with other educators on Voxer. This app turns your device into a super-powered walkie-talkie that sends and receives voice and text messages as well as videos. Group Voxer chats let many people come together for a voice conversation that’s almost as good as being in the same room. There’s more information about this walkie-talkie PD as well as a list of Voxer groups you can join. I’ve struggled to really get going with Voxer, but I’ve seen so many educators swear by it that it has to make this list.

12. Education on Air. Hours and hours of quality learning about using Google in the classroom are shared through this free online Google event. Educators from around the world share their best Google-infused ideas via on-demand video. If you haven’t checked out the videos, go to the Education on Air website or check out this YouTube playlist.

Question: What are you doing to improve this summer? What advice do you have to others to make the most of your summer? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

  • Maris says:

    Also- check out vedchat.com! It is a chat using Flipgrid to connect with educators. We will be chatting all summer!

  • Emily says:

    Hello Matt,

    Love your posts. I know that I did a lot of PD during my summers when I was teaching–but I also think that we need to have balance and take time to refresh ourselves personally and spiritually during our time off.

    Have that second cup of coffee…or tea, or whatever…because you can. Make time for exercise, personal meditation, prayer…whatever floats your boat. Spend more time in the bathroom…those passing times used to go fast, and by the time you walked to the faculty restroom and back and stopped to answer a question or two on the way, you maybe had a minute or so to take care of your needs. Take a little time with a hobby…be it gardening, cooking, baking, building, crafting. Play with your children and pets a little more that you could when you were teaching during the school year. Go through old files…I made it a point to do so every few years (when my son was taking summer swimming lessons in the high school pool, I got a lot of work done in my office) and discard (or bring back for improvement and renewal!) what you haven’t used in a while or is out of date. Catch up on your favorite shows that you didn’t have time to see during the school year. Get your hair cut, your nails done, new make-up, a new piece of clothing or jewelry. Be with family and friends. Walk. Dance. Smile. Laugh. Love.

  • Marshall Blansfield says:

    Why do you as a publication support the fantasy that teachers have MONTHS off for summer? I have heard that on radio talk shows, on TV, in publications and in person while a parent or other citizen tells me how lucky I am to have summers off. It is simply not true. My last teaching day is June 26 and I return on August 29th with 2 conferences in between, one which takes another 5 days out of my time-off. Please, stop insisting that teachers have summers off.

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