Saturday, June 15, 2019

Eight Weeks of Summer: Professional Growth Plans

This post is week 1 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.

This is a little blogventure put on by; for eight weeks they invite teachers to respond to a prompt about how they actually spend summer. I am a sucker for A) busting the myth that teacher summers are all unicorns and pina coladas and B) a prompt. I am, of course, a retired teacher, but I'm just going to cheat and write about summers gone by. So I also get to enjoy C) the rosy glow of nostalgia. There's also the promise of D) a chance to win an Amazon gift card, but when it comes to winning things I generally have E) no chance in hell. My assumption is that life has already so richly rewarded me that additional bonuses would be unfair. If you want to join in, follow the link-- but work quickly because the first week ends today.

So this is week one, and the prompt is "What are your professional learning goals this summer?"

My most common goal in the summer was to reread at least a third of the list of works that I taught. Yes, a really responsible teacher would have read everything, but a summer is only so long, and I think my view of some works benefited from breaks between readings. "I read it when I was in college" is a poor approach to the teaching of literature. At a minimum, your own growth and experience will have opened you up to new ways to see the work. Additionally, you should have absorbed enough of your students' point of view to see ways that the literature connects to them (and it won't necessarily be the same way it connected a decade ago).

Because I taught mostly American literature, I also read plenty of American history (actually, I still do that). You can't possibly know everything there is to know about the context of the work you teach, and I found that works about the history often informed or even radically changed how I taught some pieces.

It's important, especially at the secondary level, to be an expert in your content area, and you can't do that relying on the material you picked up in college courses when you were young, material that steadily fades into the past. If you learn best by taking classes, then do that, but hopefully your college taught you how to teach yourself, and you can do that every summer. My college education really is like a foundation-- while a whole massive structure rests on top of it, it's actually a very small part of the whole house.

I often read about Teacher Stuff in the summers, but honestly, not that often. I found it more useful to read that type of material during the year when I was right in the middle of the work. Though once we hit the internet age, I often had a cyber-stack of saved up articles that I meant to get around to reading, and summer let me do that. Summer was also my time to try to hone computer skills and familiarity with softwares. And for twenty years I was a yearbook advisor, and there is no summer vacation from that job.

And I always tried to have a project, whether it was directing a community theater production or redoing a room in the house or something else that let me develop, start and finish something.

Those were the professional growth parts of my summer. I of course had the personal parts, too, and teachers should always count those-- you cannot relate to how your students live in the world if you barely get into the world yourself. I taught in a small town/rural setting, so my outside world was the same as theirs. I can't imagine living apart from where my students live; if for some reason I had had to, I would have tried to get back to their space regularly.


  1. Peter, there's a lot to unpack here. I agree that our college days provided foundations, but immersing oneself in our content area helps us provide varying foundations for our diverse student interests. And that last paragraph -- about living in the world and being part of the students' world--- those two things make us human and approachable so students accept us and we can build relationships with them as mentors who encourage their success. Thanks for the great read. ~ Sheri

  2. I may have giggled more than once at the multiple choice part of your response, which tells me you are still a teacher, retired or not, funny all the way to E! Thanks for being a part of the #8weeksofsummer blogging challenge.

    I have often wondered about what it could've been like to join an American history and American literature class together. I think I could have bolstered my writing grade as a student that way.

    I do have a colleague who hopes to join his English course with a Biology course. I plan to watch that merger closely as well.

    I wonder what you would've done with such an adventure?