It has been a challenging school year for everyone. Even though we have experienced many changes, struggled with the unknown, and experienced exhaustion, there have been many positives. We have pushed ourselves to embrace new methods and technologies, and we have all grown personally and professionally as we worked through this experience together. Especially during the past year, becoming more connected made a difference for us as educators and for our students.
There were many demands, and as we finish our academic year and look to the summer, we need to consider what type of learning, if any, we need to engage in before the next school year. But first, it is important that we take a break and make time for some self-care, and truly take a rest after what has been a very demanding time.
One of the main reasons I look forward to the summer “break” is because it is a time to relax and recharge but also provides the opportunity to learn and participate in PD that I may not have time for during the year or attend events that only occur during the summer.
Making time for what we need personally and professionally
Professional development as we knew it changed dramatically over the past year. In-person conferences shifted to virtual or were canceled entirely, our time together in our schools was limited, and we have become fatigued by so much screen time. Thankfully, we have technology that enables us to find a way that meets our specific preferences, and that enables us to be able to see and hear each other, engage in conversations, and learn together.
Read more: How to overcome digital fatigue as a teacher
Now we have to think about the type of learning that we need to be best prepared for the new school year. There have been many conversations happening on Twitter, on Facebook, in educator communities about whether or not to participate in PD this summer.
Based on what we have experienced, how can educators get the professional development that is needed and also make it a priority to focus on taking a break too?
We start by setting some goals for the summer. Perhaps choosing one activity for each week, finding a book to read, an online event that we can participate in, and balancing it all throughout the summer.
6 Manageable ways to participate in PD this summer
Technology is great for providing many ways to learn and can present multiple solutions for educators looking to take advantage of professional learning opportunities at a time, place, and pace that meets their interests.
Here are some ideas for PD for anywhere and anytime learning:
Clubhouse has become quite popular this year in the education space. It is an audio platform where you can listen and, at times, participate in conversations on a variety of topics. You can join in discussions happening throughout the day from around the world. It feels similar to listening to a podcast or a live radio show, but one in which you may have the opportunity to speak as well, depending on the setup of the room.
Skilled Space from Swivl is also a great option for creating an audio space to share ideas. It can be for a very casual conversation to share ideas or tech tools. You can also join in the other Skilled Space conversations happening.
What makes these audio spaces a good choice is that you can multitask while listening, without the need to be on screen or even participate if you choose not to. To get started with either, create your profile and provide the key information you want people to know about you. Then, find a room to join in whenever it meets your schedule and make new connections and take away new ideas.
These audio choices have become one of my favorite forms of PD and have also been great for self-care.
The Model Schools Conference will be virtual and in-person in Nashville from June 24-June 30th. ISTE Live is fully virtual this year and will have many sessions and other formats available from June 27-30 with access to the recordings for several months.
In July, the Changemaker 2021 conference will be taking place. There were hundreds of sessions last year, and it brought educators from around the world together.
PLNs and PLCs
In communities such as these, educators have access to many resources and can become connected with educators from around the world. Whether you participate in Twitter chats, Facebook discussions, or groups on LinkedIn, these are great spaces to build your network. In these spaces, we can learn more and enhance our professional growth and bring in authentic, real-world experiences for our students.
Read more: Learning and growing as educators
Check out the different ambassador communities on Facebook, learn about the Microsoft Educator Community, or become a member of ISTE, to have access to additional opportunities for networking through events such as conferences, webinars, and local meet-ups.
There are a lot of great podcasts out there that offer fantastic PD on the go for educators. What I appreciate about podcasts is that they provide learning opportunities but also enable us to focus on some self-care because we can listen to them from anywhere and during a time that meets our needs.
Besides listening to podcasts, launching your own is also quite beneficial. Whether you choose a specific topic or theme or create a podcast in which you highlight other educators and their work, you will learn during the experience, and you provide meaningful PD for others as well. Podcasts are beneficial to our practice because it gives us an opportunity to reflect as we share our ideas.
I started my own podcast in September 2019 after thinking about it for a few years and finally decided to give it a go. It has been a good way for me to process and share what I am learning with others and continue to reflect on my practice.
Webinars and courses
There are many resources available for teachers to stay up-to-date with the different emerging trends and issues that are happening in education, many of which are provided free of charge.
Some recommendations include Simple K-12 and EdWeb, which offer some free webinars and have archives of prior webinars available. In addition, the Microsoft Educator Center has many courses available on a variety of topics and different skill levels. Courses are added regularly on relevant and current themes.
Good old-fashioned books
If these options seem like they involve too much tech for right now, then find some books to read instead. Whether they are focused on education or another area of interest, being able to sit and read wherever you are is another good choice for personalizing our PD. I have many books on my “to be read” pile, and as an author, I have been recommending two of my books that do not focus on technology or teaching methods. They are stories from educators and experiences shared that help us all to reflect.
All in all
Having these options enables us to learn on our own schedule and find something that meets our personal interests and goals while also allowing us to take the time to rest that we need.
Find something that will work best for you, help you to build your network, but focus on taking time to rest and focus on self-care first.