Professional Development, Poolside

We know it’s true: teachers anticipate summer just as much as  students. It’s not just the change of pace in daily life, when we can live life without a bell schedule. Over the course of my career, I also enjoy summer because it gives me time to delve into professional growth without the typical pressures of the day-to-day management of a classroom. Summertime is an ideal time for me to explore new concepts and make plans to implement them in my practice.

Reading is one of my favorite summertime activities. I often begin summer with a long list of titles for exploration. Some are newly-released novels and literature for potential titles for my students to read. Some are pure “brain candy” titles, the kind of beach reading that I don’t have time for during the school year. And many are professional titles, books that I’ve read  about on Twitter chats throughout the year. I love that I can take my son to a nearby pool, relax on a lounge chair while he enjoys time with friends, and throw myself into professional reading. It’s professional development, poolside.

Perhaps the best part about engaging in professional summer reading is that I can then play with the ideas I’m learning in a more relaxed fashion. For example, a few years ago Rick Wormeli came to our area in mid-June. My district sent some of us to see him, and as part of his presentation, we each received copies of Fair Isn’t Always Equal. After his presentation I dug into his book, enjoying how the reading brought to mind some of the key ideas in his presentation, and I also began reflecting  on  some of my own practices. I played through various scenarios and ultimately made some changes to my classroom guidelines and syllabus. I enjoyed the luxury of a more relaxed pace to really read, reflect, and then make some changes. That summer, I decided that I was going to emphasize the importance of the learning activity more than its timely submission. During the following year, I was astounded when the amount of late work dropped dramatically; somehow, by telling kids, “Work is important for your learning, and it is still worth doing,” sent a message, and I had very few “repeat offenders” when it came to late work. Certainly I could’ve made this change during the school year, but having the more relaxed pace of summertime to consider it carefully and then plan for how best to implement it made a difference.

Another aspect I love about professional reading in summertime is that it travels with me. Books are portable professional development. I don’t have to block off certain days to attend a workshop or class. While those are certainly valuable experiences and are also something that can be enjoyed more in summertime than during the school year, the flexibility reading offers makes it especially appealing. Reading during the long drive to the beach makes the time pass faster and helps me strengthen my practice from the passenger seat.

Most educators take time each summer for planning and preparation for the year ahead. Reading professional literature in the summertime gives us the opportunity to learn, reflect, and maybe even prepare for some changes in our classrooms in the year ahead, yet still enjoy the more relaxed pace of summertime and the increased opportunities of time with family and friends. Why not consider picking up a good book or two (or five?) this summer, and keep on growing professionally?

Here’s what’s on my summer reading list:

Start with Why and Find Your Why by Simon Sinek

The Power of a Positive Team by Jon Gordon

Genius Hours: Passion Projects that Ignite Innovation and Student Inquiry by Andi McNair

Doing Poorly on Purpose: Strategies to Reverse Underachievement and Respect Student Dignity by James Delisle

Visible Learning for Literacy by Nancy Frey, John Hattie, and Douglas Fisher


About the Author

Tricia Ebner is an education consultant and former middle school ELA teacher in Ohio