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 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 @lsj914

The Non-Complacent Teacher

Isn’t it interesting how so many teachers are self-proclaimed nerds?  Nerd is a term that recently has become quite trendy.  That has not always been the case.  When I was in middle and high school, I can assure you it was an insult to be called a nerd.  I cringe remembering how in some cases, I did all that I could to avoid that label. However, today I wear the nerd label proudly.  It’s hard work staying on top of research, trends, conferences, and professional literature.  But the end result is so worth it.  Here are some ways I manage to be non-complacent in a career that has spanned over 18 years and will hopefully grow to 30+ years.

Get Connected!

Make sure to make connections to other educators.  Start within your own building.  Find a group of like-minded, positive people that you can learn with and from.   Then, gradually expand to others in your district, state, and across the nation.  One easy way to do this is through social media.  I joined Twitter last year and it has changed my career.  I have connected with educators across the country (and world) that have inspired and taught me how to be a better teacher.  I believe in the power of Professional Learning Networks (PLNs).  But you have to go out there and get involved!

IMG_1329Another way to stay on top of trends and research in the education community is to join organizations and subscribe to professional journals.  I love receiving my “Literacy Today” magazine from the International Literacy Association.  After I read them I bring them to school to share with other teachers in my building.  It’s crucial that educators know what is happening outside of the bubble that is their district and state.

Conferences, Camps, and Collaboration…Oh My!

Hopefully you work in a district and/or school that promotes professional development.  If so, take advantage of the conferences around your state or even the nation.

I have a few big tips for attending a conference.  First, go with a team if possible.  I say this because I have attended conferences by myself as well as with a group.  The difference is amazing.  After attending solo, I would come back to my school and be so excited to change the world.  One small problem…I had to spend a lot of time creating buy in from my colleagues because they did not attend the conference, hear inspiring speakers, see the products, or get energized from being around other eager educators.   Attending a conference with a group allows you to split up and attend lots of different sessions and then come back together to collaborate.  On the flip side, you can also attend sessions together that align with your school/district vision and then debrief afterwords.  Plus, when you go with a group, they can hold you accountable for taking action after the conference.

My next tip is the “law of two feet“.  A lot of conferences have you register for specific sessions.  This is awesome because you are guaranteed a seat, you can focus on certain topics, and you can hear a variety of presenters.  However, not all sessions will be a perfect fit for you.  I have gone to presentations that, once in there, I realized I didn’t need that information or it wasn’t relevant for me.  I also have gone to sessions where I didn’t care for the speaker’s presentation style.  So, I used my “two feet” to quietly leave and find a session that did meet my needs.

There are so many great conferences out there.  Here are a few to get you started!

Staff Development for Educators or SDE is one of my favorites.  They offer conferences all over the country.  I have found that they offer a variety of topics, presenters, and locations.

IMG_1331

North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching or NCCAT is a state funded conference available for North Carolina Teachers.  Housing, meals, and conferences are free to teachers.  This is a conference every NC teacher should experience.

IMG_1336 International Society for Technology in Education or ISTE was created by educators in Oregon who asked “what if” questions about how to make teaching and learning more meaningful.  If you can’t afford to go to a national conference, find your state chapter, such as North Carolina Technology in Education Society or NCTIES.

IMG_1332EdCamps are participant driven and such a cool event to attend.  At the beginning of the camp, participants submit questions, ideas, and topics and the organizers of the camp design a schedule.  You can then go to any of the sessions that interest you.  Here is the catch…there are no presenters.  The participants engage in conversation and collaborate.  Most edcamps take place on the weekend and are FREE!  Learn more about them here.

IMG_1333

Professional Literature

My professional library started with all of my education text books from college.  Then, my school began to give me books for professional development and book studies.  Over time, my collection grew.  However, I noticed that they were all books someone else had chosen for me.  I wanted to start adding books that I selected and that helped inspire me in the classroom.  I used to borrow my colleague’s books, but found that I like to annotate the text, add post-it notes, and highlight so I began to buy my own.  Here are a few of my favorite books.

Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros is a game changer.  Couros is also a dynamic public speaker, so if you get the chance to see him, I highly suggest it.

IMG_1330Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess is an inspiring book that will help impact student learning in your classroom.  Burgess explains how to engage students in your classroom.

IMG_1334
The Artisan Teacher by Mike Rutherford is a “Field Guide to Skillful Teaching” and helps teachers examine 23 Themes such as Mid-Course Corrections, Time and Timing, and Stagecraft.

Image result for the artisan teacher

 The world of education changes almost daily.  It is easy to get left behind, fall into a rut, and become complacent.  Make sure to find ways to challenge yourself.  Find ways to get inspired and stay inspired.  Get involved in your educational community and become a change agent.  In doing so, you will impact student learning in your classroom, school, district, and even state.

I would love to hear what you do to be a non-complacent teacher.  Leave a comment including your Twitter handle to connect to other educators.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @lsj914 to read other educational posts.