Now that summer recess is here, most teachers are likely thinking about relaxation above all else—you've earned that vacation, after all!—but you might also be thinking about which career-boosting summer activities to slot into your break.
I asked teachers about the best summer learning experiences they've ever had. Their answers fell into three basic categories: practical workshops focused on learning strategies, necessary courses for licensing or advanced degrees, and classes for personal enrichment or just plain fun.
Popular Practical Workshops
In my experience, teachers are more than willing to spend time on professional development in the summer if it provides tools that they can actually use. Some teachers I talked to say they particularly like trainings led by experienced teachers. For example, several elementary teachers I spoke to pointed to a workshop they took last summer in multimodal reading strategies that was taught by a veteran reading specialist. The workshop offered ways to help struggling readers get up to speed, and teachers said the strategies turned out to be really effective.
Other teachers raved about workshops they've taken that were taught by experts in the field. For example, high school English teacher Jama L. said the best workshop she ever took was AP by the Sea, offered by the University of San Diego. "They always have the top people in the country there," she says. "And, of course, it's a beautiful setting." Second-year teacher Adam W. said, "Last year, I took Fred Jones Tools for Teaching. It focused solely on classroom management, something I really needed."
Further reading: Education Conferences Area a Great Place for Teachers to Grow
A number of teachers mentioned workshops that enhanced their technological abilities. Kaneisha L., a secondary IT content specialist, wasn't surprised. This summer, she will offer her usual one-day workshops on using technology in the classroom. "To be honest, teachers who aren't really tech-literate are reluctant to sign up for a three-day workshop," she says. "But they can learn a lot in just one day."
Several teachers told me that as school funding decreases in some states, it has become more difficult for teachers to get financial support to attend workshops outside their districts. But many school districts have joined together to offer professional development and to bring in experts to conduct workshops. And some teachers are happy to have found professional learning communities online that allow them to interact with teachers and education experts from all over without leaving home.
Many teachers' career-boosting summer activities focus on completing certification requirements or finishing an advanced degree. Some states require that teachers complete a number of professional development hours within five years of starting teaching for permanent credentialing. Many teachers are eager to complete this requirement over the summer, as it may result in higher pay in the fall. Teachers can take formal education courses at colleges, or trainings and workshops offered in their communities.
In addition, some teachers who were hired recently in states that have teacher shortages may have only temporary certification. These teachers will need additional education coursework that will allow them to continue in their current jobs. Many find that they prefer taking courses in the summer rather than during the busy school year.
Last summer a friend of mine blocked out June and July to finish her doctoral dissertation, which she defended in early August. By the fall she began a new job with a new title in a new school. Talk about a career-boosting summer!
Summer is also a time when some teachers choose to take a course simply for their own enjoyment and well-being. Two teachers I know whose kids take dance lessons decided there was no reason to let the kids have all the fun. They signed up for a six-week tap course for grown-ups. "It's great exercise, and it's fun," said one. "And we actually will wear costumes and be part of the recital at the end of the summer!" After a long school year of professional responsibility, a summer of silly, laid-back fun can be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Further reading: 3 Actions That Advance Professional Development for Teachers
Some teachers may be reluctant to take the stage and tap dance, but there are plenty of other fun and rewarding options for teachers over the summer. Yoga classes, aerobic work-outs, and just walking are options for focusing on your own well-being over the summer. But exercise isn't the only option. A teacher friend of mine belongs to a farm co-op and gets a share of fresh local vegetables every week. "And the co-op offers classes in canning and jam-making that I plan to take," she says.
So, if you're interested in some career-boosting activities during the summer, you have a lot to choose from. There are many great workshops and online courses that can improve your classroom effectiveness and maybe even increase your pay. And there are lots of other classes and activities that will simply enhance your physical and mental well-being as a person and as a teacher!