By Andrew Hawk
For many teachers, summer is a time to relax and recharge their batteries for the next school year. It is a time to reflect on the practices of the previous school year. There are many rumors and clichés regarding how teachers spend their time off during the summer. One of the most common is that teachers paint houses during the summer. The truth is many teachers continue to focus on their craft during the summer. All the best teachers that I have known personally spent their off time engaged in some sort of professional activity. To truly love teaching, a person must also love learning. This is why many teachers use the summer to continue to learn—even if their learning is as simple as finishing a book they have been working on since winter vacation.
Here are eight ideas you might try if you are looking for some new ways to keep learning through the summer.
- Participate in a book study. Whether it is in person or online, a book study is a great way to learn new professional ideas. A book study also offers the chance to network and collaborate with other teachers. If you cannot find a book study on a topic you like, consider organizing one!
- Attend a seminar. Seminars are the old educational standby for professional development. Cost is sometimes a deterrent. Do your due diligence and look for a seminar on a topic you like. If it is expensive, see if your school can help pay the cost, or look for a grant. Sometimes you can find free seminars.
- Take a field trip. Pack up your family and head somewhere fun and educational. Even in your local area, there may be educational locations waiting to be discovered and explored. It is my personal goal to visit Lincoln’s tomb in Springfield, Illinois. In doing so, I will have the opportunity to add valuable firsthand content knowledge. In addition, I will take a series of pictures and will use them to create a virtual tour to share with my students.
- Attend webinars. Think seminar-type instruction delivered via the internet. These are almost always free if you can wrangle an invite. Many educational websites and organizations offer free webinars to promote their products. Whether you are interested in purchasing the products or not, the information provided is still valuable.
- Work on learning a new language. Don’t laugh! My school is one-third English language learners. Of those ELL students, 99 percent are Spanish speaking. My school corporation offers free Rosetta Stone access to any teacher who wants to work on acquiring a new language during the summer. No one expects teachers to come back to school in the fall fluent in a new language, but any new knowledge is an advantage. There are even free apps for smartphones that will teach foreign language skills. Spanish and American Sign Language are both good ideas for new languages to learn.
- Write a journal article. That’s right, I said “write” a journal article. I left off reading journal articles because it seems so obvious, but there are plenty of opportunities for teachers to research and write journal articles. While writing an article would be more work than many of the other ideas I have shared, the rewards are also greater. First of all, there is the chance to be paid to publish the article. Second, having an article published adds a great line to your résumé.
- Write a grant. Speaking of your résumé, successfully writing a grant will also add a valuable line to it. How much you have to research and write will depend on the grant for which you are applying. The possibilities for grant writing topics are numerous. There are many grant opportunities on both federal and local levels (depending on your location). Right now, grants for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) supplies are popular. Your learning will take place in the research you have to complete to write your grant. And if you receive the grant, you and your students can benefit. This will also impress your principal.
- Help run a day camp. Summer day camps love to have teachers on the payroll. While these positions do not usually pay well, they are typically fun. I spent the last four years helping with a theater day camp for young people ages 8 through 15 during the month of July. Collaborating with the other people who ran the camp offered me valuable teaching ideas that were applicable for teaching theater but could also be applied to my regular teaching position. For example, the person in charge of the camp had a great ad-libbing game that I modified and incorporated into my vocabulary instruction. In general, it is my belief that if an adult works with a group of young people, he or she will walk away from the experience with new knowledge.
Andrew Hawk has worked in public education for sixteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grades as a classroom teacher, and for the past five years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. Andrew earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Indiana University East in Richmond, Indiana. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University, and in 2016, he completed a second master’s degree in educational leadership, also from WGU. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.
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