Relax, Recharge, Rejuvenate: Stepping Up The Summer

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After months of 60-70 hour weeks, 5:00 am alarms, staying late at school to work with students, coaching games or events that don’t end until the wee hours, and so much more — the summer is finally here.

As a department chair, the teachers in my department need to check out with me on our cannot-come-soon-enough last day of school and, when they do, I love to ask, “What do you have planned this summer?”

The most common two responses:

  • Travel
  • Nothing

While there’s nothing wrong with either of these responses — in fact, I’d encourage time doing both — I’d like to suggest that summer is a chance for us, as teachers, to be intentional about finding time to relax, while also improving our craft in ways no “PD session” ever could.
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Engineering the End of the School Year

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As students walk into class, they gather all their materials and get to work right away on their collaborative projects.

Groups are independently engaged in their learning.

“I think greenhouses are going to be too expensive, but let’s look up the costs.”

“I think we should make a movie to tell others about our plan, because that’s more interesting than a PowerPoint.”

Does this scenario sound like a dream classroom, especially during the last few weeks of school? Well, what if this could be your classroom reality?

Keeping yourself and your students charged at the end of the school year sounds great and somewhat daunting. June can be taxing for students and teachers alike. However, the end of the year can also be the perfect time to try out new teaching practices and student-centered learning strategies.

If you lean in to the opportunity to reinvigorate your day-to-day routines, you can set yourself up to finish on a strong note, in terms of both instruction and social-emotional learning.

So, what’s the secret?

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Ecosystems: An NGSS-Designed Unit

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Every teacher seeks opportunities to engage students, but how often do you have the opportunity to truly immerse your students in the discipline you love? And how can you be certain that the resources you choose are high quality and grounded in best practices?

Experts at Achieve, NSTA, EdReports, BSCS, and Learning Forward have been engaging in a process of helping the science education community come to a consensus on what counts as “high quality.” And both federal and private STEM funders are supporting the work of researchers and developers to create open access curriculum materials.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, educators from the American Museum of Natural History, The Lawrence Hall of Science, and University of Connecticut are wrapping up a four-year project that sought to create both an exemplar unit (along with student assessments) and a professional learning program to support the enactment of the NGSS-designed curriculum.

The project was a huge success, and after a few years of field testing in New York City, the middle school ecosystems unit is becoming well known across the country — rated “High Quality, If Improved” by Achieve’s EQuIP Peer Review Panel.

One missing piece in all of the work was video of the enactment of the Disruptions in Ecosystems unit in a classroom. Video-based professional learning tied to NGSS-designed instructional materials can support teachers with developing a more concrete understanding of what it feels like to be in an NGSS classroom. It answers the frequently asked question, “What is this supposed to look like?”

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Tch Tips: Five Ways to Recharge with Summer Learning

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Your long-awaited summer break has arrived! While teachers are especially good at filling up their calendars with neglected to-dos and preparation for what’s next, be sure to pause and take your well-deserved break. You’ve earned it.

The world moves fast and, for a teacher, the summer moves even faster. You probably won’t conquer everything on that ever-growing list. But if you choose just a few things to work on this summer in your personalized professional learning plan, you’ll return to your classroom refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on the new school year.

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Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Here are five ways you can recharge and level up on your own terms this summer.
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What to Watch 2018: Sarah’s Sizzlin’ Strategies

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The temperature is on the rise, but nothing’s quite as hot as Tch Laureate Sarah Brown Wessling’s strategies for student success. Whether you’re inside and staying cool, or just chillin’ by the pool, watch these Tch videos to build your strategy toolbox this summer.

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Family Fun with the Fathers of Science

My father is my hero, my inspiration, and one of several people I credit for my journey to becoming a science teacher. Whether it was dissecting cow hearts or cleaning a creek, he always taught me to embrace a sense of wonder and to question the natural world.

In this summer season, many of us are away from our classrooms, but Father’s Day is a perfect time to think about the “fathers” of science — in addition to our own. And it can also be an excellent time to plan some lessons with the family that may be applied in the classroom this fall.

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Meg’s dad holding newborn Edison.

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LGBTQ Teachers: Opening “The Closet” Door May Close The Door On Your Career

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Do you remember in It’s A Wonderful Life when Zuzu Bailey says, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings?”

I have my own similar saying, but it’s a more modern version.

Every time I hear the sound of a tweet, a gay teacher loses their job.

Last month I heard a lot of tweets. Last month wasn’t a good month to be an LGBTQ teacher. In Texas, a beloved teacher was put on leave for showing a picture of herself together with her wife. Tweet.

In Illinois, another teacher was under fire for not being in the closet. Tweet.

Tweet.

That last tweet was the Chicago Tribune tweeting at me because I’m the go-to source when it comes to LGBTQ teachers. Not because I was Oregon’s Teacher of the Year, but because I gave a speech, where I discussed a recent heart attack and said:

“Twelve months ago my partner may have been a widower, but instead I’m here as one of the first openly gay Teachers of the Year showing LGBTQ youth they have a future.”

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I Want to Get Better at… Differentiation

Summer 2018 I want to get better at...
Differentiation is one of those things that never seems like it can be 100% mastered. Once you have your differentiation strategies dialed in for a particular set of students… you get a new set of students! But with these new students comes a new opportunity to learn and refine your teaching approaches.

This summer, build up the differentiation strategies in your toolbox so you’ll be more equipped to meet the needs of your future students. Start with these ideas:

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