By teacher guest blogger Kathryn Rose
The dust has settled, the class is (hopefully) empty, the chairs are up, and your bags are packed -- maybe even for a destination slightly farther than your living room this summer! (We can dream, can’t we?)
After a year that has stretched educators and administrators to their absolute limits, a full summer vacation for our nation’s teachers is much needed and well-deserved. Even so, as you pull off the bulletin board pieces and turn in your grades, thoughts of the coming school year may inevitably start creeping in.
Thoughts like, “Am I going to need all this hand sanitizer next year? Will I have virtual learners in the Fall? And, what parts of teaching during a global pandemic are here to stay and which parts can I safely put to rest now that the school year is over?”
There are still a lot of unanswered questions and, to top it all off, next year’s school contracts and professional development requirements loom somewhere in the near future. The good news is that having a leg up on professional development for the coming school year might not be as stressful as it has been in the past.
As educational and professional organizations stretched to accommodate the demands of Covid-19, technology didn’t just change the educational landscape for students -- it also broadened the opportunities for teachers. Professional development courses and webinars, in a variety of disciplines and departments (including technology!), are now widely available to anyone who has a stable internet connection and a free afternoon.
The best place to start your search is on your own state’s department of education website. Often, your state’s department of education will aggregate popular and pertinent webinars and seminars into an easy-to-use calendar that will cover a range of topics and departmental issues. Several state educational associations are also offering summer leadership programs in conjunction with National Board Certifications that will include breakout sessions that train teachers in virtual learning on technology and trauma response techniques as students find ways to reintegrate into an in-person classroom next year. Make sure to check in with your administrators to see if they have a budget to cover entry costs and tickets.
If you teach in a specialized department, professional organizations that center around your discipline might offer online or self-paced classes. For example, the Association for Mathematics Teachers will be offering in-person conferences in 2022 alongside webinars that can be attended virtually. They also take topic suggestions for ongoing education and keep up a blog about interesting technology that furthers mathematical instruction in the classroom. The National Council for Social Studies is also offering online classes including a Summer Pop-Up event that will address summer learning and ongoing curriculum needs. If you are not already a part of these associations, make sure to double check that they are offering classes to non-members.
Another interesting place to find online professional development is through textbook publishers’ websites. Scholastic books has an entire site devoted to development resources for teachers including self-paced classes, in-person training, and personal coaching. Griffin and Kaplan are offering a similar array of webinars this summer. Textbooks that rely heavily on computer programs or out-of-book technology will often offer training courses that further a teacher’s ability to properly access their content. Don’t be afraid to look up the website printed in the back of your teacher’s edition!
Branching out into more region-specific opportunities, many libraries and museums offer free or reduced professional development courses for teachers that can be funded individually by the participant or with a school stipend. Many of these classes are updated regularly so be sure to check back monthly for different opportunities. Libraries are also an excellent resource for teachers that need to get a head start on large school science or history fair projects. They will often offer courses for teachers to help them prepare for the coming year’s topics and requirements. If you are unsure if your local library is offering classes, the Library of Congress offers ongoing professional development webinars that are facilitated by education resource specialists. Classes this summer cover everything from poetry writing to analyzing primary sources for paper writing.
Finally, there are self-paced programs floating through the web that can be completed in between much needed rest. Depending on what you are looking for, you might need to do a little more research to make sure these programs meet your district's professional development requirements but the result might be that you find a program that fits perfectly into your summer schedule. While offerings of this nature might vary from state to state, one example is KET’s educational store that offers self-paced programming for early childhood, adult, and K-12 educators.
Closing the book on this year feels monumental. It should be celebrated! There are also a lot of questions about the future. No one really knows how the pandemic has forever changed educational instruction. But one of the silver linings is that online professional development for teachers has never been easier to find or complete. While Covid-19 created many obstacles for educators and administrators this year, it has also opened up opportunities as well. However you choose to spend your summer, we salute you teachers! Cheers to the last weeks of school!
By teacher guest blogger Kathryn Rose
About Kathryn Rose
Kathryn Rose is currently a virtual tutor and a museum resource teacher. She also freelances for businesses and startups in the education field. She has taught at her city’s botanic garden for 12 years and has been a Social Studies teacher in both private and public schools.