I will never forget the day I was told to create a Twitter account at work. I was a little confused as to why I needed one and how “social media” was going to be useful in education. I kind of thought it was going to be a waste of time. I wasn’t sold on the idea and wasn’t sure how much I would use Twitter for educational purposes.

Fast forward 2 years later. I use Twitter daily. I don’t use it the same way as I do Facebook. Facebook is social – a way to connect with friends, family, and classmates who live near and far. But, Twitter is part of my Professional Learning Network. Connecting with someone on Twitter is not like friending someone on Facebook. It’s much more. I have made connections world wide. I love knowing that I can tweet a question, post an idea, participate in a chat, and learn from my colleagues with ease.

Twitter has also allowed me to connect with authors that I admire. I follow @burgessdave, author of Teach Like a Pirate, @joykirr, author of Shift This, @awelcome, Kids Deserve It co-founder, @aaron_hogan, author of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth, and my favorite – @gcouros, author of Innovator’s Mindset. These amazing educators will tweet, message, and chat with you!

Participating in a Twitter Chat is so easy and worthwhile. I jump in chats all of the time. You don’t have to be “invited”, you just have to find a conversation that inspires you. I have learned about so many different aspects of education in chats. If you’re nervous about actually posting in a chat, you can be a “lurker” and just follow the conversation. No one will even know you are there! I had the honor of hosting a Twitter Chat for Cumberland County Schools this month. It was an amazing experience. The collaboration was phenomenal.

I still encounter teachers who don’t understand the power of Twitter. And to them I ask, what in the world are you waiting for? Create an account, get a handle, and follow some worthwhile hashtags. You will be amazed what is waiting for you on Twitter!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter – @lsj914!

The Summer Time Teacher

If I had a dollar for every time I heard “teachers have it made – they get the summer off,” I’d be rich. Well teachers, it’s time to share with the world what really happens in the summer and debunk some ugly myths.

Yes, teachers get a break in the summer. Yes, teachers only work 10 months a year. Yes, teachers LOVE their summer breaks. But here’s the other side of the story. The one that only other teachers know…

We work during the summer. Yup, that’s right! It may not be at the school building but teachers work hard during the summer. Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I haven’t indulged in some pretty awesome summer perks – because I have. What teacher hasn’t slept in (or slept all day), binged watched Netflix shows, not put on “real” clothes, or forgotten what day of the week it is during the summer? I know I have. But not for the entire summer!! I usually have 1-2 days of recuperation before my type A personality kicks in and I create my to do list for the break.
This past summer break I did some pretty amazing things for myself and my career. Most teachers do. Let’s explore the average teacher’s to do list during the summer.

1. Recuperate
Teachers need a break. They need a little time to turn their brain off and enjoy themselves. Teachers use this time to catch up on family time, too. Many teachers love spending this time with their kids to make up for long school days and weekend work sessions during the school year. Some teachers, like myself, save up money all year to travel. Others return home to visit their family and friends. Everyone needs a vacation. Everyone deserves it.

2. Professional Development
Most people don’t realize the amount of time teachers spend at conferences and trainings during their summer. Educators don’t do it for the money because it’s usually not reimbursed. In fact, many times teachers pay out of their own pocket to attend conferences. Teachers attend conferences such as EdCamps and ISTE to better their craft and because they love teaching. A lot of districts hold mandatory trainings and meetings during the summer because teachers can attend for longer periods of time and no one has to pay for a substitute to cover their class. I attended 3 different Professional Development conferences during my summer break this year. I’m not complaining…I loved all of them. I even got to hang out with my pero (professional hero), George Couros, at one of these meetings.

3. Professional Reading
It feels like there isn’t enough time to read professional books (of your choosing) during the school year. There are just too many other things that take priority. But during the summer time, the days are longer and other school duties are on hold. Personally, I have a stack of books I purchased to read over the summer. These books have been trending on Twitter and other educators are raving about them. Some of the titles include Shift This by Joy Kirr, Kids Deserve It by Adam Welcome and Todd Neslonely, Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth by Aaron Hogan, and Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess. Educators spend their summers reading so they can hone their craft and be innovative teachers and leaders. But they mostly do it for their kids. They want to rock their students’ world!!

4. Planning
Teachers spend time planning for their students during the summer. They meet with their grade level teams, write lesson plans, fine tune classroom management strategies, find new digital tools, and reflect on the previous year so they can make necessary changes. It’s a lot of work and most teachers never stop planning. I asked my friend and colleague, Jenni Clark @ClarksOwlstars, what she did over her summer breaks. She responded “I’m the kind of person who is already thinking about the next school year the week after school gets out! I make things and laminate things and come up with ideas for my classroom.” This is also the time frame when teachers do a lot of “back to school” shopping. They buy school supplies, classroom decorations, table tubs, pocket charts, calendars, planners, etc. We can’t help it! It’s hard for teachers to pass up a good Dollar Tree, Target, or Amazon shopping trip.

5. Research
Finding materials, Professional Learning Communities, and ideas to use at school has never been easier. Thanks to blogs, social media, and YouTube, teachers are able to connect with and learn from amazing educators all over the world. But staying connected takes time and energy. Summer breaks are the perfect time to research new ideas and develop old ones. Jonathon Miller @Miller_Teach, an Instructional Coach, used his summer break to take classes for graduate school, research new technology to share with teachers, and help his school become an International Baccalaureate school. He’s the kind of educator everyone else is just trying to keep up with. He told me, “Whenever I see something interesting like a new app or program I try it out as soon as possible and try to get a handle on how it is used so I can be ready to teach it to others”.

6. Schoolcation
Okay so I just made that word up but I couldn’t think of a term to describe this last thing teachers do during summer break. Schoolcation is all the time that teachers spend during their break at school. If your school is like mine, teachers are made to pack up materials and store them over the summer so that custodians can clean and repair their rooms for the next year. Teachers wait to get the all clear email and rush back to put their rooms in order again. There are also the times that teachers go to school to help out with camps, School Improvement Team meetings, and to meet with their teams.

Teachers spend a lot of time working, and not just during the school year. Most people don’t realize how much time and energy teachers spend on school work. So yeah, we get the summer off, but I think we’ve earned it. Don’t you?

Follow me on Twitter @LisaJohnsonEDU