Learning and Reflecting

One common  misconception about summer is that it’s hotter because the earth is closer to the sun. The real story is that Earth is nearly equidistant from the sun throughout the entire year.  Summer is hot for us because this is when our hemisphere is tilted toward the sun. Another misconception about summer is that teachers have that time off. The real story is that teachers utilize the summer’s downtime to improve their craft.  We attend professional development classes, read books, perform research, and participate in active learning communities.

In Arizona, there is a select group of teachers involved in the The Arizona Teacher Partnership, which is a program that matches teacher leaders with newer teachers in an attempt to reduce Arizona’s high teacher turnover rate. Recently, we helped these teachers become familiar with the shifts of the College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) as a reflective tool to improve their current practices.  Below, we share a few stories of how their learning will impact them this summer as they plan for next school year.

A new 9th-grade English teacher from the Dysart School District, Cheyenne Nichols focused on the English Language Arts (ELA) shift that requires students to provide evidence from texts when answering questions and developing opinions.  Nichols explains that she is planning to change her lessons for the next year, “The objective will be for students to draw inferences from the text and relate it to their own personal experiences. My new learning will allow my students to master the objective by tapping into their listening and speaking skills, while digging deeper into the meaning of texts.”  Nichols will be spending her summer creating new lesson plans that help her English students dig deeper into texts.

Becky Mach, a 6th grade math teacher, also from the Dysart School District, plans to focus more on teaching the students the “math”, not the shortcuts.  She states, “ I’m passionate about my job and the students learning the math and it was wonderful to see this resource confirm and support my thoughts. I will be looking for additional worksheets and really go over the way to solve problems that the students can take with them to the following grades and up to the high school level and further.”  Becky makes a great point, as outlined by the math shift that requires math teachers to help students create a foundation that will help them in future grades.

At The Abbie School in Tucson, Arizona, Autumn Clark has already created a new lesson plan for her junior high math students.  She focused on the math shift that requires students to deepen their understanding of math concepts instead of simply memorizing formulas.  Clark explains that in her volume unit, “Usually I just teach multiply the 3 numbers together. I will take the time to model it with cubes and have students calculate the cubes to find the volume in cubic units.”  Now that Clark is aware of the shift in the CCRS, she is going to help her students understand why multiplying the three numbers achieves the correct answer.

These are just three examples, but the bigger story is that teachers all around Arizona are doing work like Cheyenne, Becky, and Autumn during their summer months.  They are learning and reflecting as professionals. While it may seem like teachers are simply “taking the summer off” we know the truth: summer is a great time for teachers to reflect on small changes they can make to help their future students in the classroom.  

Another summer misconception is that ceiling fans cool the air but in actuality, they only move the air.  This moving air makes a person feel cooler because it helps to evaporate sweat faster than still air. So while you are trying to stay cool this summer in the pool or running through the sprinklers, we challenge you, our fellow educators, to spend some time growing your craft with standards and assessments.  You are sure to find inspiration for improvement!


Tara Dale is a NBCT Teacher and Arizona State Teacher of the Year finalist.