3 Ways to Enhance Your Summer Professional Learning

by Patty Clark, Director of Content Development
June 22nd, 2017

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Summer is an ideal time for math teachers to engage in reflective professional learning experiences. If you have the opportunity to attend a summer institute, or if your district arranges professional learning days at your school, you have a significant opportunity to effect change in your instruction, and in the learning environment at your school. But how can you make the most of these experiences?

For years as a teacher, I attended professional learning institutes and academies in the summer, and would be energized and think, “this is so good!” and then walk away without a plan of what I was going to do. Now, as I work with teachers across the country through Math Solutions, I see that same enthusiasm I felt during summer professional learning; teachers leave each day energized and excited. Some even say, “This is the best professional learning experience of my life.” These teachers are ready to get back into the classroom and transform instruction. But they aren’t necessarily going back to school the next day.

We’ve all been there‑-you get back to school and things happen. Once the frenetic back-to-school activity begins–faculty meetings, getting your classroom set up, meeting parents and students, filling out forms, and countless other tasks‑‑you lose sight of that excitement, or it begins to wane. Most in-person professional learning opportunities aren’t close enough to that first week of school to allow teachers to ride that wave of enthusiasm over the back-to-school hump.

Don’t let your professional learning enthusiasm get away from you this summer. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Apply the professional learning to your teaching

Really consider how what you’re engaging with in your professional learning is like what you already know and do in the classroom, and take note of what’s new and different. Actively engage with your peers, and with the instructors you’re collaborating with, to understand where you can make changes, and where you can reinforce best practices. Try something new, and don’t be afraid to take risks. The best professional learning doesn’t happen in our comfort zone.

Think ahead to the next school year

Document your ideas of how you’re going to implement the instructional strategies you’re learning when you get back to your classroom. Ask yourself, “what do I want to work on when I get back to my classroom, and what will I need to make that happen?” This is the beginning of your action plan. If you work with number talks in a professional learning session, and want to implement them in your class, figure out what steps you need to take to add that to your daily routine.

Seek the support you need to make change happen

Document what it is you’re going to need outside of yourself to make change happen in your classroom. If it involves other people, contact them and bring them into the loop. If your colleagues are not with you, email them immediately so you don’t forget. Put some time on the calendar right now so you can talk to those people at the earliest convenient time. Best practices are best implemented by a group of people who are going to encourage each other and keep each other moving, and you can help build that group yourself if it doesn’t already exist in your school. And don’t leave your building administrators out of the loop. Engage them with the new ideas you want to implement in your classroom, and let them know how they can support you and your colleagues.

 

What steps will you take to make the most of your professional learning this summer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Don’t miss Patty Clark at the 25th Annual Model Schools Conference next week!

 

Patty ClarkPatty Clark is the Director of Content Development for Math Solutions. In her role, she oversees the development of courses and partnerships and supports Math Solutions consultants and Directors of Professional Learning in their work to design and provide professional development for district-level administrators, school-based math leadership teams, coaches, and teachers across the country. 

 

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