Contributed by Spike C. Cook Ed.D.
There has been a great deal of research indicating students experience a summer learning loss, but have you ever thought that could happen to educators? The answer is a resounding yes!
Of course the summer is a great time to relax and decompress after a long school year, but for educators, this time can be spent growing your craft.
Since you have attended all of the required professional development in your school district this year, the summer is an excellent time to OWN your learning.
Here are some suggestions to enhance your summer learning, and help you begin to take on a new challenge when school reopens.
- Create Your Own Digital Challenge – Not connected? Interested in joining up with millions of educators throughout the world? Look no further than Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Google Plus. These social networking sites have thousands of opportunities to keep your creative juices flowing. You can learn about anything or simply connect with other educators to ask specific questions.
- Read One Educational Book – Whether or not you like to read on a device or the traditional hard/soft back book, reading is fundamental for growth. Maybe you want to read about how to increase your student’s learning, or learn more about classroom discipline. No matter what your topic, there are resources abound. This summer, I will be reading High Impact Instruction by Jim Knight because I want to help my teachers maximize their classroom management.
- Find Your Creative Space – I get my best ideas (this post included) while mowing my lawn. The act of mowing my lawn gives me the time and space to be mindful. I can listen to a podcast, my favorite music, or the sound of the lawn mower engine. I actually look forward to it because I never know what may come out of the experience. Not to mention, I am always proud of the results when I am finished (my wife is too).
- Attend an Edcamp (or another face to face conference) – Conferences can be expensive, and if your district is unable to send you somewhere this summer, find an Edcamp somewhere close to you. Edcamps are free, and you create your own agenda for learning. I will never forget my first Edcamp (Thank you Kevin Jarrett). I attended a summer “Padcamp” in Southern New Jersey. I learned how to use the iPad, create videos, podcasts, and more importantly, I was able to connect with passionate educators in my area. If you can’t find an Edcamp in your area, and you can’t attend an actual conference, why not create own on your own. All you need is a few people and a few hours. Talk, share, research, write, and laugh your way to new learning! Here are a list of Edcamps being offered: http://edcamp.org/.
- Visit a Museum or Historic Park – For the most part, we live within an hour drive from some type of museum, park or event. These types of experiences can really enhance your learning and allow you the opportunity to make connections for the Whole Child. Fortunately, I live close to Philadelphia, so I can meander through the historic sites with my family. Most of the time, it really doesn’t cost much, but what I get out of it is priceless.
- Plan – Think about how awesome your year would be if you took 30 minutes a week to plan for your classroom, school or district. At first you could review the previous year, and then begin identifying areas to improve on for the upcoming year. You could create a map of the classroom, plan activities, and balance your assessments with a little planning.
- Write Letters to Your Students, Teachers, or Administrators – No matter what your role will be next year, you could take a few minutes a day and send letters. If you are a teacher, you could write to the students and families you will have in the upcoming school year. As a Principal or Supervisor, you could write notes to your teachers. As a district administrator, you could write notes to your Principals and Supervisors. These notes could be questions, hopes, or wishes for the upcoming year. As a Principal, I love getting notes from teachers in the summer!
- Disconnect – One of the most important parts of the summer is the time spent decompressing. Plan your time to disconnect. Let everyone know that you will be taking the next few days or week to not do anything related to work or school. Even though I consider myself a “connected” educator, I always take a week each summer where I do not check any social networks. At first it is difficult, but after the first day or two, I am glad I did (and you will be too).
So now that the summer is here, it is time to take advantage of the time and opportunities. Everything listed above will only take a small percentage of time to complete. Even if you only complete one or two things off of the list, you will be glad you did. Eventually, as you deal with the ebb and flow of the educational calendar, some of the activities listed above will become habits you integrate into your daily practice.
Dr. Spike C. Cook began his educational career in 1999 and has worked in higher education, middle school and elementary school. Dr. Cook has served as a counselor, teacher, adjunct professor, Executive Director, vice principal, guidance director and principal. His blog “Insights Into Learning” received a nomination for the Best Administrator Blog by Edublogs. He is the author of Connected Leadership: It’s Just a Click Away, along with other Corwin books. Schedule an on-site or virtual consultation, seminar, or workshop with Dr. Cook today!