It's no secret that by the end of the school year, educators are ready to take well-deserved time for themselves, especially after a demanding daily schedule.
But being an educator also requires ongoing learning so we can build our professional skills and make connections that will support us and our students. And finding time for professional development during the academic year — other than during school or district PD days — can be hard to schedule. Whether due to teacher shortages or the logistical challenges of being away from students, the only time available is often evenings, weekends and summer breaks.
One reason that I prefer to learn over the long summer break is because it gives me time to explore professional opportunities on my own schedule. We all need to take a break to refresh from the year, but we also need to reflect on our work, set new goals and find ways to stretch ourselves professionally.
Keeping our learning going in the summer doesn't just impact our own growth, it enables us to better help our students and the colleagues that we support. Also, summer offers more flexibility and there are many ways to engage in learning while still finding balance. Summer is also the perfect time to create space to collaborate with others and escape from the isolation brought on by busy school days.
How can we make time?
Because we have more flexibility in our summer schedule, we can find quick moments to grab some new ideas, take time to travel to an event or learn from wherever we are.
Looking for ideas for PD this summer? Here are six ways to enhance your skills and knowledge:
1. Summer conferences
Regardless of whether you like to attend live events or learn online, you have so many choices these days. If you enjoy a large event with lots of activities and sessions to choose from, check out ISTELive 23.
Log on to Twitter for edchats or to participate in live Twitter Spaces discussions. Head over to LinkedIn to find grade-level and content-area specific groups for educators or to find groups for specific roles in education or emerging trends and topics.
Follow hashtags to learn about ideas or tools related to your areas of interest. I recommend #education, #educoach, #edchat, #k12, #suptchat, #edtech, and other topic related hashtags such as #STEM, #SEL, #PBL, #AI to name a few.
Perhaps start your own podcast as a way to reflect like I did with my ThriveinEDU or find a few to add to your list. Podcasts are great because you can listen to them anytime and from anywhere, even while walking outside! Check out the ISTE podcasts and a post about some educator favorites.
5. PLNs and learning communities
ISTE provides so many ways to engage in learning anytime and anywhere. The ISTE community has discussions available on so many topics and is a great space to ask a question, share ideas and learn about webinars, book studies, podcasts and more. The topics are always current and often cutting-edge, which keeps you ahead of the game. ISTE also hosts the Summer Learning Academy, which offers on-demand learning so it's easy to join when you have time.
Take time to reflect on your teaching and identify areas where you need to improve. Reflection is also helpful for celebrating successes. Use a journal to jot down ideas and turn it into a blog or use voice notes so you can go back and review later to set new goals.
Final bits of advice
The types of professional development available to us has transformed how we connect and learn. Use technology to network with other educators and stay up to date on the latest trends in education and find a supportive community to be a part of.
Professional development is important for educators to keep abreast of the latest trends in education and to learn new teaching strategies. But don't forget to take a break. It's important to pause and disconnect regularly so we can avoid burnout. It helps us to feel refreshed and engage more in learning on our own schedule.
Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author and teacher. She teaches Spanish and STEAM at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is an ISTE Certified Educator, ISTE Community Leader and an ISTE Making It Happen award winner. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.Follow her on Twitter @Rdene915 and Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU.