New Ideas

Summer learning for teachers

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School may be out soon, but for teachers and school leaders, summer is prime time for professional development.

With summer comes the change in the rhythm of the day, making it an optimal time for teachers to rethink and renew. Renewal means recharging one’s physical and emotional energies as well as looking outward for new knowledge and inspiration about teaching and learning.

Great teachers are always learning. They grow in the classroom along with their students but also reach out beyond the classroom, to connect with and learn from other teachers around the world. Inquiring about new ways to design and lead learning is vital to keeping a teacher’s professional life at a high level of excellence.


Attend local conferences

There are many ways for a teacher or school leader to engage in professional learning. Some are old technologies, like face-to-face conversations, meetings, and conferences. Others are new technologies, like online webinars and developing one’s own personal learning network on Twitter. All are good and necessary methods for the professional interested in keeping his or her skills sharp.

Engaging in learning in a variety of ways is an essential professional habit of any excellent teacher.

Teachers and school leaders in the Mid-South can attend two conferences locally this summer. Both the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence Conference on June 12-13, and the Lausanne Learning Institute on July 14-17, feature dynamic and innovative educators. The Martin Institute Conference welcomes Will Richardson, a world-renowned speaker, writer, and blogger who views technology as an essential tool and skill for students. Richardson is the author of numerous books including Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom and Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education.

The Lausanne Learning Institute will include a keynote address by Chris Lehman, director of The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, one of the most exciting new models for partnership schools in the country. The Science Leadership Academy is a public school partnered with The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. They offer students exceptional access to real world careers and paths in science, math, technology, and entrepreneurship. 

Summer learning offers teachers an opportunity to reflect on the fundamental assumptions and questions that guide their teaching practice. Taking time to consider new possibilities is often invigorating. One teacher who participated in a curriculum design class with the Martin Institute last summer explains the value of time to reflect.

“During my two days, I had the opportunity to revive, reawaken my senses, and rediscover who I really am at my inner core. I rediscovered why I love the field of education. The class gave me an opportunity to revisit my strengths and apply them to my daily life and career. Looking at curriculum from a different perspective made me feel more open to opportunities that are student-driven rather than teacher-driven.”

Coming together without the confines of a class to teach next period, or papers to grade, teachers can connect as colleagues and spend time really getting to know one another at a personal as well as professional level. These relationships are important because they sustain the spirit when the busyness of the school year hits its full stride. Another teacher shares about what time to connect offers, “I know that reflection is something that is highly important but frequently forgotten about in teaching. The time together with colleagues in the summer class gave me the opportunity to THINK, and to get to know my fellow teachers better. Both things were well worth the time spent.             

“And, we need time to have a few laughs!”  

Summer learning for teachers and school leaders allows depth and discovery. Teachers can follow ideas they have been set aside and weave them into new classroom practices. Time to renew and reflect yields innovative and engaging new types of learning as well as practices in the classroom that are vital for student success as well as teacher excellence.


— Jamie Feild Baker is the executive director of the Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence in Memphis.


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