As the school year ends and summer begins, educators have time toturn their attention from their students’ learning to their own learning. Summer is an excellent time for teachers to recharge and refocus their energy towards their own goals, to return to the classroom in September with a fresh perspective. Summer learning can be approached from a personalized professional development angle--putting an emphasis on reflection, goal-specific learning and a hands-on environment.
Personalized learning is sweeping schools across the nation. But what exactly does personalized learning look like? According to Barbara Bray, a leader in the field, “a personalized learning environment is more competency-based, where students progress at their own pace instead of by grade levels. No more “mandated” seat time. The learner has their own learning path with multiple strategies to meet their different learning styles. This changes the teacher role and the whole learning environment. School doesn’t look like “traditional school” anymore.”
This personalized learning approach is also being applied to professional development for teachers . The advent of online learning and an emphasis on hands-on experiences are pushing out traditional, outdated “sit-n-git” seminars. Teachers are able to connect on a global scale, opening up their classrooms to peers halfway across the world. Social media has made it possible for thousands of people to contribute to critical education conversations. Accessible, high-quality tutorials and resources are available to anyone with Internet access--so teachers wanting to learn more about the latest and greatest classroom management strategies don’t have to implore their administration to setup costly trainings. Districts are implementing computer-based, gamify systems to motivate and evaluate teachers to participate in PD.
Consider a few cornerstones of personalized professional development when coming up with a plan for your summer learning.
Make it personal
This, of course, is the most important step in developing a plan for summer learning. While it’s important to stay abreast of district-wide and national teaching strategies and issues, it’s more important for educators to maintain passion for their profession. Teachers can ask themselves a series of questions to identify a topic they’d like to pursue as part of a summer learning plan.
- What made me decide to become an educator, and what’s made that decision sustainable throughout my career?
- What were some “game changers” from the past school year? What types of things inspired me, or caused me to question my teaching strategy?
- List any strategies, tips or tricks you heard from your peers that interested you. Is there a running theme, like classroom management or universal design?
Make it collaborative
Identifying a partner or group of people who are also interested in professional development can expand opportunities for learning. Perhaps you and a fellow teacher have been talking about starting a new volunteer group for students, or maybe you’re involved in an event-planning committee. What are some ways you can connect with your colleagues over the summer to reinforce these relationships? Is there an activity that you’d all enjoy, or potential for starting a book club focused on an educational topic? If you don’t know anyone in your district who would like to participate in your summer learning plan, you can connect with teachers in your area and across the nation by searching for groups on Meetup.com, or following #edchat on Twitter.
Make it fun
It’s summer, for goodness sakes! Personalized professional development doesn’t have to look like the last “sit-n-git” workshop you attended--in fact, it shouldn’t. Don’t think of personalized PD as work. It’s a way to maintain and grow your passion for educating, and something that shouldn’t be put on hold for the summer. You can dedicate as much or as little time to summer learning as you like. Consider visiting a museum that relates to your personalized PD topic. Thinking about incorporating physical activity in the classroom? Attend a fitness class and talk to the instructor about your plans. Network. Get outside. Challenge yourself. Leave your comfort zone. Whatever you do for personalized professional development this summer, make it engaging, and make it fun!