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.
Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash
Here are five ways you can recharge and level up on your own terms this summer.
It’s the personal stories that are often lost in the conversations we have about immigrants and refugees. One personal story may seem insignificant; however, when the stories of nearly five million English Language Learners are absent from the education narrative in the United States, so is the context through which we can learn to know our students, to build empathy, and to truly understand what our students — especially newcomer students — need to be successful.
A Story Can Shift Practice
Emily Francis’ immigrant story is compelling standing on its own; however, it becomes even more powerful if we ask what this story — and the many others like it — can teach us about how we can best reach newcomer students and any student who doesn’t quite fit in.
As you read about Emily’s experience, think about the similar struggles and barriers your students face in the classroom each day. Allow Emily’s story to illuminate some of the ways that educators can identify their students’ needs and support newcomers with a few simple pedagogical shifts.
More importantly, keep in mind how a growth mindset and asset-based way of thinking is required to see the gifts that every student brings, particularly those from other cultures, languages, and countries.
When we remember the power of stories from others unlike ourselves, we can put ourselves in their shoes, developing empathy for different perspectives and different paths in life. We can learn about the funds of knowledge our students and their families posess, or the rich backgrounds, skills, and assets diverse populations bring to school. We can move beyond the challenging socio-political rhetoric and focus on the realities in our classrooms — the realities of the world our immigrant students bring to us every day.
“Success demands singleness of purpose.”
~ Gary Kelly, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
I recently read The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Kelly and was struck by its beautiful simplicity. Kelly posits when we try to do too many things at once, we’re highly unlikely to do anything well; and rather we “need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”
Now if you’re in the field of education, you may have just read that quote and wondered if Kelly was sitting around your last staff meeting, or maybe even rhetorically asked yourself if he was mocking the last district initiative memo you received.
As teachers fighting to survive the rapidly changing educational landscape, we’ve all experienced feeling like we’re asked to do too many things, and as a result, do few things (maybe some days, even zero things) well. As an educator supporting teachers through project-based learning (PBL) implementation, I see this strife far too often.
How might we use Kelly’s logic to go about doing PBL with fidelity and quality? And not lose our teachers through the process?
Well, let’s just do ONE thing and do it well!
Walking around the classroom, clipboard in hand, I moved as quickly as possible, diligently checking for homework completion, assigning five points to those who had it done, two-and-a-half to those who had it partially done, and zero to those who didn’t do it. It was super scientific and truly measured learning… (he says sarcastically).
Luckily for my students, since then I’ve grown quite a bit in my understanding of assessment practices, and as I look back at them over the past 14 years, it’s not with disgust (although that would be justified at times), but with hope — and the knowledge that change is possible. I author this piece not to judge current practices, but in the hopes that some of the ideas below might shed new light on ways to take a fresh approach to assessment, and improve learning for all students.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
When I was a classroom teacher, this quote was posted on my wall to remind my students that they would have many choices in life. I wanted my students to be ready to explore the world and walk through all the doors that would open for them.
I was recently re-inspired when I saw these same words posted on the wall of a classroom I visited. It reminded me not only of the inspiration I find when reading many of the Dr. Seuss books, but also that each of his books has a message — some buried deep within the text, others more obvious, almost jumping off the page.
In case you missed any of the great ideas we explored this month on Tchers’ Voice, let’s recap our fabulous February lineup, filled with great ideas from passionate educators just like you!
Six New Videos
Tchers’ Voice Blog
Tch Tips, Methods, and Strategies
Each year, Teaching Channel has the pleasure of publishing great ideas, thoughtful reflections, and helpful advice from our community of educators in our Tchers’ Voice blog. This year was no exception! We published posts from writers across the country, covering topics from classroom management to the solar eclipse. In case you missed any of these amazing posts, here’s a wrap up of our top reads.
When did you first realize that you were called to be an educator?
As a child, I can recall teaching “classes” full of stuffed animals, dolls, a few live puppies, and even a captive audience of neighborhood children. But it wasn’t until high school that I really knew I wanted to be a teacher. It was an ordinary day during my sophomore year in high school, in the middle of a world history lecture, that I remember thinking to myself — Yes, I want to be a high school history teacher.
I was watching my history teacher, Mr. Sterling, at the time, and I could sense his ease with the content, his passion, and his excitement. When he wasn’t captivating me with his ponderings on the state of Abu Dhabi, he was likely teasing me after catching me waving out the door to my boyfriend for the 100th time that semester, or encouraging me to keep going after I missed that one point I needed to meet the goal I’d set for myself in the class.
I knew he was doing exactly what he was called to do in this world — and I knew I wanted to do that, too.
I loved teaching. And that’s why I know that making the decision to leave the classroom is one of the most difficult decisions an educator will ever make.
Yet, for more than a decade, we’ve been having an ongoing conversation about teacher shortages and the difficulties we now face recruiting and retaining teachers. Notably, the data suggests that retention is no longer an issue that only impacts teachers in their first five years, but that teachers are leaving their classrooms in increasing numbers throughout the trajectory of their careers. This is a problem we must address, and we believe that you can help!
We know the saying “two heads are better than one.” And we know that our English Language Learner (ELL) students benefit from both content and language instruction. Now, how can we put our heads together to form and sustain effective collaborative teaming for ELLs?
Below we share three tips that can support teams, whether you’re new to working alongside another educator, or if you’ve been doing it for years. Remember, no matter how long we’ve been teaching, we’re never finished learning!
Over the past few weeks, Teaching Channel has been offering up ideas for getting better at something this summer to prepare for the next school year. We’ve given you suggestions for learning about classroom organization, growth mindset, classroom management, and social emotional learning. This week, we’re offering you ideas for learning alongside other educators in the Tch Video Lounge.
If you’ve never visited the lounge before, summer is the perfect time to join us in our redesigned space! We now have 30 interactive videos for learning, organized by topic area. Each video is layered with prompts to focus your thinking and inspire you to share your ideas with other educators.