Professional Learning

Top 12 Summer Tips for Top Teachers

July 1, 2014

During summer days, if you're a top teacher, you'll take time to improve your best asset -- you. If somehow it's not clear why that's so important, look at it this way: when financial times are tight, our schools can improve the bottom line in four ways, three which aren’t beneficial for us as teachers.

  1. They can cut teachers and staff.
  2. They can cut benefits.
  3. They can lower quality.
  4. We teachers can become more productive and better at our jobs.

The best choice for our students, schools, and us is #4 -- becoming better teachers. But how? We're so tired!

Here are 12 tips that I use to level up every summer.

1. Rework the Worst to Be the Best

Based on student feedback, rework your least engaging lessons to make them the most exciting lessons the next year. Create costumes or comb thrift shops, make room decorations, and spend time inventing powerful learning experiences. Top teachers never settle.

2. Prepare Platforms

Reevaluate online platforms and learn what you could be doing. Revisit your favorite sites to see what new features they've added. You can't paint your room every year, but you can apply a new theme to your Ning and give the class wiki a facelift!

3. Record and Prepare Your Digital Persona

Many teachers use videos to enhance instruction. Using Sophia and Office Mix for PowerPoint, I am recording the screencasts for the first few weeks of school. Sometimes I even grab my iPhone and record a message for my students in an odd place like on top of a zip line platform or after rafting a river. These personal connections help enhance our relationship.

4. Learn and Share

Read, watch videos, and share what you've learned. A powerful network of educators is emerging on Goodreads. You can read friends' book recommendations and create a personal book challenge. (If you read on Kindle and link your Amazon account to Goodreads, it tracks your progress automatically.) You can write book reviews, tweet, or blog what you've learned. The discipline of writing book reviews will help you remember. Plus, educators who care share.

5. Connect with Colleagues

Educators can be so inspiring. Take time to read blogs and learn best practices. The summer is a perfect time to join Twitter chats or listen to educational Internet radio.

6. Revitalize Your Physical Health

Your health impacts your mood and your ability to perform at peak levels. (See my post 12 Choices to Step Back from Burnout for more on this.) In the summer, I run or walk first thing in the morning, drink lots of green tea, and catch up on rest. What is your plan?

7. Disconnect Completely

Be a human being, not a human doing. Experience life -- don't just take pictures of others doing it. Be unafraid to go where cellular signals do not break the underbrush. When you disconnect, you'll return with renewed energy that comes from reestablishing relationships. You'll think more clearly after having your thought patterns uninterrupted by tweets, beats, and the bleats of an always-on society.

8. Embrace Change

Some people are afraid of change. Others don't want to change because it makes them feel dumb. Here’s the thing -- the longer you wait to change, the dumber you will feel. Intentionally push yourself out of your comfort zone. Go new places. Do new things. Buy a new outfit. Wear your hair in a new way. Try a new tool.

9. Tinker

Do you remember those summer days long ago? Your parents asked you what you did, and you answered, "I just messed around." Well, you can still take time to mess around. I'm tinkering with ClassDojo and learning everything I can about the Maker movement and 3D printers. I'm tinkering with apps and a new Chromebook. Summer is the time to tinker.

10. Laugh (a Lot)

Laughter is good for you. In the car, look up jokes and read them to your fellow travelers. Eventually you'll find one that has you howling with happy tears in mobile reverie.

11. Set Goals and Remember Who You Are

Set goals or revise those you've already written. Where do you want to be next summer, next year, or in five years? Take time to update your goals and review them daily.

12. Be Prepared to Hit a Home Run on the First Day: Be "The Babe"

If you're watching baseball this summer, there's nothing more exhilarating than when a hitter slams a home run on the first at bat. Then, if he does it another time, everyone is even more wowed and amazed. Here are just a few resources to get you thinking this summer about making that strong start in the first few days of school:

As for me, I will be prepared to be the Babe -- a Babe Ruth of teachers, that is. I'm going to slug a jaw-dropping, mind-bending home run. I'm going to work to impress my parents with the first supply list sent home. You get one chance to create a first impression. The rest of your year will benefit if you can come out of the dugout with your Louisville slugger in hand, ready to slam it home.

Happy Summer!

So have an awesome, funny, happy, sensational, disconnected, connected blast of a summer, my friends. Come back better than ever, because you will make the difference in your school this next year. Be epic. Be awesome. Be the kind of teacher our world needs today.

Level up your learning, and your students will, too!

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