Teachers, make summer a breeze with these 4 tips for relaxation and reflectionJune 19, 2017
As temperatures rise and schools dismiss for summer, we asked some of our Teacher Champions about how they use the break to relax and rejuvenate while also preparing for a classroom where students master high academic standards. In short, their advice for fellow teachers is to seek out some high-quality resources, for both classroom use and professional learning, and to take some time for yourself! Read more (and find some great resources!) below.
Reflect. One key summertime activity to help prepare for the next school year, and mastery of high academic standards, is reflection. To me, it’s been critical to reflect on the work I just finished so that I can see where my students demonstrated mastery, and where they struggled. Perhaps the text I selected wasn’t as good as I thought. What resources do I have to help me strengthen the lesson? If I don’t have resources, where can I find them? Which of my colleagues might have good ideas to share? How can I help my students become more successful in mastering those standards in the coming year? By taking time to reflect and ask myself questions in the summertime, and then acting on my answers, I am setting myself and my students up for success in the coming year.
– Tricia Ebner, an education consultant and former middle school ELA teacher in Ohio
Read. Check out Overcoming The Achievement Gap Trap by Anthony Muhammad if you haven’t yet. It’s a quick read with ready to use resources for helping teachers reflect on equity and the “soft bias of low expectations.” It helps tired teachers re-energize their senses of urgency for reaching all students and re-aligning their core American beliefs of equality, justice and high expectations with current realities. High standards for all students is a moral imperative, and this book helps teachers reflect on their own practices and gives them the vocabulary they need to have difficult conversations with other educators.
– Sarah Yost, a middle school teacher in Kentucky
Rest. Number one thing – do something that is restoring to you! If you love gardening, hiking or simply Netflix binging – do it! Teachers need time to rest and relax in order to tackle the next year head-on. Once you are rested, try to zone in on one specific thing you want to work on in order to ensure you are consistently raising the bar for students. This could mean attending a conference, joining a Twitter chat, or meeting with your fellow teachers for a coffee and chat. Do you want to infuse greater use of technology or create new student learning portfolios? Try doing this with an education buddy so that you have accountability to get the work done over summer break.
– Lauren Fine, an education consultant and former elementary school teacher in Colorado
Rejuvenate your curriculum. For English Language Arts, using text sets, or collections of related texts organized around a topic or question anchored by a complex, grade-level text, can help your students build vocabulary, develop content knowledge, have meaningful class discussions, and use text based evidence in their writing. Achieve the Core has great example text sets and a toolkit. Newsela and Readworks are great resources for building sets as well. In math, planning strong questions to facilitate thinking is hard. Why not spend some time this summer coming up with a quick facilitation question card that you, your students, and parents can use for math? Want to learn more about getting students to ask great questions? One of my favorite websites is RightQuestion.org.
– Char Shryock, a director of curriculum and instruction in Ohio
Research. I spend my summers in search of current, engaging articles that my future students can use to practice their critical thinking skills. As a science teacher, my ecology content is constantly changing. For example, in May, a new glass frog species was discovered in Ecuador. The frog’s skin is completely transparent on its belly, so much so that you can see its beating heart. This news will be engaging for my high school students—they’ll love seeing the pictures of this tiny amphibian, but they will also love to read about it. My students will be expected to answer text-dependent questions, but also to think of their own questions. As we cover ecological concepts, we will circle back to this mysterious frog, and I’ll support my students in creating open-ended questions such as “does transparent skin increase the adaptability in the rain forest?” and “how does this new frog affect the current food chains in the Amazon?” Summer is a great opportunity to incorporate current events into lessons to increase relevance and engagement in the classroom. By mining new scientific discoveries and appropriate grade-level articles for curriculum, I keep my students engaged and thinking critically.
– Tara Dale, a high school science teacher in Arizona