Setting Professional Goals During Summer Break

If a day ever comes where I stop learning, it will be a sad day indeed. Like any good teacher, I believe in the revolutionary power of education, and I know that learning drives progress. But how do we continue to set professional goals during summer break and battle teacher burnout?

If any of you are like me, the first two weeks of break involved as little intellectual stimulation as possible. Pleasure reading, playing with my daughter, online shopping, and countless episodes of Call the Midwife have dominated my summer so far. But, as inevitably happens, as we near the midway point of week 3, I find myself needing to be productive.

We all know that professional development is important. And for many of us, it’s mandatory, so whether you like it or not, sister you’re learning something new (or brother… we don’t discriminate here!) But my introductory exposure to PD has led me to see that the options for approved professional development don’t always align with what we want to learn. Rather, we must try to find a course that has something we can grasp onto that might align with next year’s goals. Or, if we do find something that perfectly aligns, it may conflict with other obligations, which means we have to bypass it.

Summer is a time for catching up on your Next List or traveling or chasing after kids, etc. It’s also really easy to waste all of those weeks doing nothing productive, then looking up with the new year looming just a few days away and realizing you are in no way prepared. So how do we battle this? Here are some tips and tricks to help make sure you stay on track this summer.

Make a List

The first thing you need to do is to decide what you want next year to look like. Are there new strategies you want to try? New classroom norms you want to implement? Do you need to create a Donors Choose for something your classroom desperately needs? Making lists is such an easy place to start. And, the great thing is that a list will give you some direction when you find yourself floundering in all of that newfound free time.

Set a Schedule

Now that you have that list, you need to put it to use. Which means setting a schedule. If it’s a Donors Choose, you know you need to have that created ASAP or it won’t be funded in time. If it’s something that requires research, you can set reading goals and determine a finish date. Either way, setting a schedule will help prevent that dreaded monster we fight with our students all year–procrastination.

Read the Books

If there’s something new you’re thinking of trying (and if you haven’t tried anything new in a while, then it’s time to revamp!) then seeking out the expertise of those who have gone before is never a bad idea. Ask your PLN for book recommendations (maybe that PLN includes us. And if it does, we are always glad to offer up what we’re reading/studying). Peruse your shelves for books that maybe you’ve read, but you could revisit for new strategies. Maybe you have books that you’ve been dying to read but just haven’t had the time. Or maybe your Audible que if full of the recommendations you’ve been stockpiling throughout the year. Whatever it may be, there is no better time than summer for reading. So. Read the books. Learn the things.

Pre-plan

I don’t know about you all, but I am very stingy with my personal time. Having to pick my daughter up at daycare insures that I leave work by 4 every day, and once I’m home, I try to be home. Which means I need to make the most of the hours I have at school.

This also means that if I use my summer wisely, I can better prioritize my time during the year.

Obviously, I can’t plan my whole year to a T (read my Back to Basics post for the importance of adaptability), but I can produce an outline of what I want to cover when (ex–180 days by Kittle and Gallagher). I can roughly decide how I want to approach concepts. I can brainstorm and develop creative, engaging activities that will (hopefully) get my students excited about learning.

By putting in the work now, I’m saving precious time later, so that school doesn’t dominate my life when I’m not there.

Summer should not be dominated by work. With the time and energy educators put in during the school year, you’ve earned this break. And, realistically, for many of you this is a time of second jobs (or third jobs) so you really don’t get much of a break at all. So I’m not saying you should dive all in and monopolize time that should be spent with family or on self care.

I do think, however, that by being proactive, we can set ourselves up for a little less stress later. I hope the tips listed above help, and if you have anything that specifically works for you, please share below.

So set those Professional Goals. But remember to take care of yourself too! Happy summer.

–Chéylyn

Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher Training–A Groupie’s Perspective

The teachers at my school and those I have trained from other schools often have a good chuckle when I say the names, “Penny Kittle” and “Kelly Gallagher.” Some have even started tallying how many times I reference them in my trainings and meetings. It’s ok, though. I am unashamed of my love for these two literacy giants (I mean this literally–sooooo tall!); they are my greatest paperback mentors. They made me a real English teacher.

After two years of wondering why teaching the way I was taught wasn’t working for my students, I was desperate for help. I found a book titled Readicide. As soon as I read the definition of readicide, “the systematic killing of the love of reading,” I knew that I had inadvertently done that to many of my students. In my quest to make them fall in love with Romeo and Juliet like I had, I had forgotten to get them to love reading first. So, I changed. Later, I found Penny Kittle’s book, Book Love, and my world shifted again. And for every additional book they’ve written (and I’ve devoured), I have changed and I have changed and I have changed again. Thank heavens–or better yet, thank Penny and Kelly–that I am not the same teacher who walked into her classroom on the first day of her teaching career! I still have the same desire to change the world one book at a time, but now I have the tools to do that.

Since those first two books, I have followed them everywhere, hungering for and soaking up everything they have to offer. I’ve seen them at NCTE and TCTELA, and yesterday, I got to spend all day at their feet. Literally at their feet, I sat in the center of the front row with my team, and we drank from their fountain of knowledge. And once again I am changed. We were reminded that we must stop asking how we can raise student achievement, and we have to start asking what we can do to challenge, stimulate, and engage our students! If authentic engagement happens, student achievement will take care of itself. If we are responsive to our students’ needs and interests, we can create empowered and independent readers, writers, and thinkers. I have always said that my greatest win as a teacher is not how many students pass their standardized tests, but how many students I run into at Barnes and Noble in five years.

Through their exploration of best practices in motivating readers and writers, they extolled the power of passion, book talks, choice, reading/writing conferences, and book clubs. They highlighted the most important ways for students to become better readers and writers: volume, choice, and modeling. But through all of that learning, the thought that kept pounding in my brain came from the very first slide in their presentation:

Our job is to create an ecosystem that serves to democratize opportunity.

Wow! If that doesn’t remind us of the importance of this work, I don’t know what will. What an amazing gift and responsibility we have as English teachers!!! No matter what standards exist, and no matter what standardized assessments exist, our first concern should always be whether students have equal access to quality texts and writing space. Literacy is for everyone! And, we have the great opportunity to share it with today’s youth. With the gift of reading and writing, barriers begin to crumble, doors begin to open. Literacy has the power to inspire and destroy and rebuild. Without it, our society is empty, devoid of humanity.

With literacy, there can be no walls.

–Bridget

My first encounter with Penny Kittle.
Penny Kittle, Kylene Beers, and Kelly Gallagher in one room!
Meeting of the minds! Literacy giants at work!

What I learned @ TCTELA 2019…

I grew up in districts that were incredibly whitewashed. And even when I entered college, the English department of which I was a part was remarkably devoid of diversity. Then I came to Silsbee as a teacher, which is not exactly a melting pot, but is still much more colorful than anything I’ve experienced before.

Tolerance. Acceptance. A celebration of individuality. I’ve tried to celebrate each of these during this, my first year of teaching. I strive to create a classroom culture where everyone is welcome. I preach open-mindedness and do my best to love my students as they are. For the most part, I feel I’ve succeeded. But there have still been those moments when students accuse me of singling them out because of the color of their skin, and it makes me doubt whether I’m really upholding my philosophy. It’s easy to be tolerant in a world that looks like exactly like you do.

Diversity. Student Voice. Student Choice. Tolerance. All big buzzwords in education right now. And TCTELA was not immune. Which is why I loved it so much. I had a chance to hear from Chad Everett, who pointed out that we couldn’t praise ourselves for being tolerant when the only diversity in our lives takes place on our bookshelves. Jason Reynolds spoke to us about how his books reach so many kids because he has lived their lives in a way that many of us in that room never could. And Jimmy Santiago Baca spun a story of a life that would have defeated many, but which turned him into an artist. Each of these men spoke words that affected me in a different way, even though they were all preaching the same thing: accepting that there are those who will have lived lives I cannot comprehend, and that all some of those people need is for someone to show them kindness. I also had the chance to sit at round tables led by fantastic teams of women. Women who were not only passionate about education, but who were well-educated themselves. Having the space to converse with people who love learning as much as I do was one of the reasons I entered this profession, and it was refreshing to be a part of that.

Thanks to TCTELA, I learned that I need to be more aware of the message I’m preaching–it’s one thing to say something and another to do it. I learned that diversity is infinitely complex, and that the stories of those to whom I cannot relate (because our lives are so incredibly different) are the stories I need to be reading. And I learned that it’s never too late to redirect, and to show your students that you care.

–Cheylyn