The most effective teachers, like the most effective students, are lifelong learners. While many schools require educators to have ongoing training and professional development, many educators can craft their own learning experiences just like the most motivated and active students. Teachers like this provide a model for students of vibrancy, imagination, and active learning; they prove to all of us that learning doesn’t end with a certificate or degree.
Traditional professional development can be more nebulous than it appears. Some teachers work in environments that have outdated curricula that are as unwavering as the brick-and-mortar institutions they teach in. Other teachers may be in a district that’s completely overhauled the curriculum and left the teacher instructing from entirely new material. Throw in the fact that new advancements in technology, student trends, and education dos-and-don’ts will continue to surface daily, and it can be hard for the already overworked teacher to find time, reason, or the appropriate resources to change their challenging teaching routine.
That being said, making change a staple of your teaching style should do more than fulfill your school’s requirements of you. Changing your routine accomplishes these two things for starters:
One: Change can give you the perspective to adapt to changing student populations. Every year, new students will enter your classroom with new challenges, technology, backgrounds, demands, gifts, etc. It is not in your power to stop the world from changing. Being open to change and adapting your lessons to the new challenges every year brings will get you closer to your students and more comfortable in your role as their mentor.
Two: Your openness to change should apply to your life professionally and personally. You can’t become a better teacher without becoming better personally. Some professional development programs have a focus in personal and professional development, while others might only teach skills for the classroom. Whether your professional development has a personal learning element or not, it is important for teachers to independently keep personal goals, a journal, or any other method to keep track of personal and professional progress.
The summer months can be the perfect time for teachers to reinvent themselves personally and professionally. This summer vacation, answer the following questions to get you ready for a new school year with new ideas and a fresh outlook on your personal and professional life:
- What skills can you learn this summer that would make you a more effective teacher? Every teacher’s answers will be different, but could include listening, organization, availability, media literacy, or allowing more personal time during the work week. Think about the books you want to read this summer which will enrich and expand your mind. Some that I recommend are: IMAGINE, by Jonah Lehrer, THE 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure and ALONE TOGETHER: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.
- What professional development training can you have over the summer, or look forward to in the next school year? Use the summer months to find a professional development training that aligns with your personal and professional goals. Sign up to attend a local Ted Talk or download a podcast that interests you, like THIS AMERICAN LIFE.
- How can becoming an academic coach help you become a better teacher? Academic Coaches help students arrive at their own answers through asking a series of powerful questions, which can greatly change the classroom dynamic as well as the way teachers interact in their own lives. When teachers don’t give students the answer, students ultimately learn how to coach themselves by use of powerful questions to get through scenarios in school, career, and life. LifeBound’s Academic Coaching Training dates in Summer 2012 are June 18,19, 20 and July 23, 24, 25.
- How can you strengthen your digital skills? There’s always room for growth in the digital arena. This summer you might get more familiar with social media by creating a Twitter account and following the hashtag #edchat for classroom insights from educators around the world. You could also take a community or online class to gain skills in blogging, digital photography, photoshop, digital design, Word Processing, and more. Or, hire one of your best digital students to teach you and your friends skills. You will learn a lot and your student will get some great entrepreneurial training experience.
Change can open new opportunities that you never knew possible. Consider using your free months to relax, explore, and set goals that inspire change, personally and professionally. You will return to school in the fall invigorated, with many new dendrites and the passion which can inspire even the most apathetic students. Beyond that, you will have nurtured and restored yourself in ways that will last all year as you transform young minds into tomorrow’s chemists, lawyers, mechanics, doctors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and, because of your impact, twenty-first century teachers.