Summer: A Time For Professional Learning

There is often the misconception that teachers have summers off and just relax and enjoying a paid vacation between June and August.  The reality is that many teachers use their summer breaks as a time for professional development.  Sometimes those professional development activities are more informal, such as reading professional books and articles, while other activities are more structured and formal, including coursework, conferences and workshops.

One of my favorite summer PD experiences is the Children’s Literature Conference at Shenandoah University (you can check out the conference here).  Attendees can either register to attend and complete coursework for either undergraduate or graduate credit or they can simply attend the conference and enjoy the presentations without receiving credit.  The authors and illustrators not only give inspiring keynote addresses, but during the breakout sessions, attendees are able to interact directly with the presenters during breakout sessions. I’ve met authors and illustrators such as Katherine Applegate, Sophie Blackall, Mac Barnett, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, Grace Lin, and Tom Angleberger. I always leave the Shenandoah conference with new titles to use in my classroom and stories to tell my students.

Kate Messner’s free Teachers Write online camp is another summer opportunity that I’ve enjoyed for several years.  In the past, Kate Messner and several of her author friends offered mini-lessons, Q&A sessions, quickwrites, and Friday Feedback for participants.  This year, Kate is rolling out a format for the online camp that focuses on mentor texts.  To find out more about Teachers Write, please click here.  Teachers Write helped me rediscover myself as a writer and being a part of this community encouraged me as a teacher-writer.

Jennifer Laffin, the founder of Teach Write also offers opportunities for quality professional development through the Teach Write Academy.  Jen believes that it’s essential for teachers of writers to be writers themselves.  She’s created a variety of offerings that empower all teacher-writers, no matter their comfort level or experience.  This summer, I enrolled in a Focus on Fiction Workshop through the Teach Write Academy, but there are other workshops that are also available, including a virtual writing workshop, sessions on building a writing habit, and writing notebooks.  Jen’s courses are affordable and I’ve enjoyed not only getting to know Jen, but other teacher-writers from around the country while participating in weekly writing workshops.

Professional development, though, is not always a formal experience for teachers.  In the past, I’ve followed #bookaday to build my knowledge and awareness of children’s literature. Many groups are also available on the web and through social media and provide a platform for educators to share their thoughts on professional texts.  So, as educators settle in to the summer, it won’t be to discharge completely from their jobs, but instead to spend time refining their practices and preparing for the next school year. Thankfully, there are so many options for educators to explore during the summer!

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