Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer: For PD or not for PD?

"Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the stars. To sit on a branch and study the clouds."
- Regina Brett

Trip to the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg
Check out my awesome hat
When I was a kid (admittedly not too long ago) the above quote held true. I'd spend my days lounging around the house, catching fireflies, going to campfires, and sleeping until noon. In high school and college, I worked as a camp counselor, but that was essentially time paid to play on a playground. Summer was a magic time where responsibilities were short and the days were long.

And then I graduated college and earned my teaching position. Suddenly, summers took a hard right turn into another time to complete responsibilities. Today, I'll examine how summers are used by educators and my thoughts on the topic.

I'd like to start with clearing up a common misconception I have heard. Many people say that teachers "get the summers off." As will become evident in this post, I find this to be false. Many good educators will use their summer for professional and personal growth rather than a three month vacation. Obviously, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but by and large the norm is that educators use summer to hone their craft.

Presenting on Google Sites at Googlepaloooza
You don't have to take my word for it. Take a look at the numbers. ISTE is one of the biggest edtech conferences of the year and it takes place smack dab in the middle of summer. According to their statistics, over 21,000 various educators attended this conference from 76 nations. Although I sadly wasn't one of them, this is an incredible feat. This goes to prove that summer is spent learning by a large number of teachers, and this doesn't even include the #notatiste2015 crowd (which I was a part of!)

I personally have spent my summer learning and growing. Twitter has been hugely instrumental in this and providing a source of PD on my time. I attended and presented at Googlepalooza 2015 in Middletown, VA where I learned a number of wonderful technology tools. I'll be attending and presenting at some other professional development throughout the summer as well, which will serve as an entirely separate post later in the summer. I also recently attained the new Google Educator level 1 and level 2 certifications, which I found very applicable for the classroom. I'm also working on my Google Certified Trainer application, which will further my technology instructional and training practices. 

Using KidBlog in Summer School
I also spend my summer teaching summer school. I find this to be a highly rewarding experience and enjoy using the summer school class for piloting new ideas. This past week alone, we have tried KidBlog and TheAnswerPad, which I plan to use during my regular school year.

This summer and the last, I also have been working on completing my Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction through Western Governors University online. It is a flexible and self-paced program which I chose to accelerate. I am currently leading a research project based on parental involvement (a clear passion of mine) and the effect on reading and math achievement. This has taken up a large chunk of my past two summers, but it will be worth it when I finish at the end of this summer. 

My summer break is 58 days. Summer school runs for 25 of these days. Leading/attending professional development counts for about 5 days. I probably have spent about 7 full days working on various things for grad school. I often spend 4-5 days getting my classroom ready. When all is said and done, I have about 16 days left that are not filled with commitments for education.

Protecting my campsite
*the horse nor myself were not harmed*
So what do I do on these days that are solely for me? First and foremost, I relax. I grill and sit outside and just read for pleasure. That is one of the greatest joys for me in summer. I am a bit of a workaholic and have a hard time not working on something for teaching in my free time.

I also try to fit in vacation when I can. Last year, my girlfriend and I went to Gettysburg and Chincoteague. This year, we went to Williamsburg with my family and camping on Assateague National Seashore. Camping was a disaster that included high winds which collapsed our canopy, charcoal refusing to start, seagulls eating our food, and a severe thunderstorm that forces us to vacate our site a day early. I also enjoy hiking when I can. My girlfriend and I are moving in together for the first time, so that's another new and exciting adventure. Another big summer project is the new EduRoadTrip podcast that I have started with Mari Venturino and Greg Bagby. No matter what I'm doing, it's bound to be an adventure!

So what was I trying to convey in this post? Summer is a time for learning, but it is important to take some time for yourself. The vast majority of my summer is spent tweaking and perfecting different things for my classroom and growing as an educator. Even my vacations to Gettysburg and Williamsburg have delved into preparing for my social studies curriculum. Summer is a time when you can explore different ideas you wanted to, but couldn't find the time for in the regular school year. It's also a time for reflection. While I dropped down to a every other week format for my blog, it's really helped me to reflect on my practice. 

That being said, take some time off. 

Unplug. Unwind. Relax. Read for pleasure. See a movie. Go to the beach

As educators, it's hard to fully let go and do "nothing." You owe it to yourself. You've worked hard, reward yourself. 

Then jump back into it, refreshed and ready to go!

What do you think summer should be used for? How do you exemplify this?


  1. Another great blog post that strikes close to home! I really enjoy researching and designing lesson plans, it has become sort of a hobby for me. This carries on through the summer. Rarely does a day go by that I do not do something education related.

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback! I've enjoyed seeing you continue your learning about LDC and can't wait to discuss it this weekend!