Summer School: 3 Considerations for Boosting Teacher Engagement
Let's face it: between summer school and self-care, most of us will choose to spend our valuable time on some self-care. Sure, summertime is for self-care. But what we most often engage in as self-care is short-term, an escape, something that is fulfilling and rejuvenating but inevitably sends you back to reality. While self-care, at its best, is a bridge to your life outside the classroom, it doesn't sustain what goes on for hours within your classroom.
When it comes to self-care, I have realized the more sustainable, fulfilling use of my time is taking care of my teacher self. And, for me at least, the best time to do this is in the summer.
Summer School and Teacher Self-Care
Design thinking models will tell you that every problem is an opportunity in disguise. The problem of summer school- planning, organizing, investing time and energy- is actually an opportunity to invest in teacher self-care, to revitalize your teaching practice and explore new opportunities.
You know that old trope about reinventing yourself over summer vacation? Well, it could be true. Summer school teaching is the perfect time to invest in self-care for your teacher self. Here is the chance to consider and try out all the things you think could make you happy in your daily school year routine. Try them out in summer school! Keep what works, ditch what doesn't. Reinvent your teacher self through your summer school teaching by trying out these three ideas.
3 Considerations for Engaging in Summer School
1. Give yourself your own PBL-style driving question…
…then do something new.
If teaching summer school is your project, then PBL best practices demand you create a driving question for yourself. Research on motivational theory has shown that tactics that stimulate inquiry, like articulating your own driving question for yourself, feed your attention and help keep your attention positively goal-oriented (Keller, 2016). Your driving question may simply be,
"What can I do to make teaching summer school meaningful and fulfilling for me?"
Your answer will probably revolve around some new approach to teaching. The dissonance and uncomfortability of doing something new is actually a great thing for your attention and therefore your motivation (Keller, 2016).
Trying something new in response to your personal driving question creates a relevant teaching experience for you and can inspire the volition, or persistence, you will need to continue to work towards making summer school a valuable experience.
2. Define your teaching style and your teaching needs…
…then create a teacher vision board.
How would you define your teaching style? What are your professional needs as a teacher? Chances are you haven't spent much time articulating these things. Summer in general is a natural time for teacher reflection while summer school gives teachers a chance to put their epiphanies into practice.
Step 1: Reflect on your teaching style
By defining your teaching style or styles you become more aware of what works for you, who you want to be as a teacher, and what kinds of actions support your style. For years now, as a teacher and as an instructional coach, I have used chapter one of Matthew Haldeman's The New Teacher's Guide to Success to help me reflect on my teaching style.
Try it out: Chapter 1 from The New Teacher's Guide to Success (Download)
Step 2: Identify and express your needs as a teacher
Another move to make this summer is to identify and express what your needs are when it comes to your teaching life. The SEL activity "Keys to Connection" was designed for students, but I have used it in several professional development sessions with groups of adult educators. Every time it has elicited some new understanding and helped teachers express to both colleagues and students what they needed to be happier and more fulfilled in their work. Take some time considering what your needs are to feel more connected to your students and colleagues.
Try it out: "Keys to Connection" lesson from Social-Emotional Learning Starts With Us: Empowering Teachers to Support Students (Download)
Once you have reflected on your teaching style and your needs as a teacher, make a vision board to help inspire you throughout summer school. A vision board is some kind of collage- digital or paper- of images and words that represent a person's wishes or goals. It helps you articulate what it is that inspires you and what you aspire to be. Create a vision board that reflects your vision of your best teacher self, and hang it somewhere you can see it every day to keep you motivated and focused on what you hope to accomplish in your summer school teaching.
Try it out: Sample Vision Board from Social-Emotional Learning Starts With Us: Empowering Teachers to Support Students (Download)
3. Articulate what would make summer school a success…
…then set a date for some brag time and get warm feedback.
The biggest part of any venture is to define what success looks like. How will you know when your summer school experience is a success? Defining success criteria for your summer means getting really specific about that answer. Explicitly describe student performances and teacher actions that indicate success.
Once you have your success criteria down, it is time to buddy up. That's right, find a peer, a colleague, a mentor and ask them to give you some feedback. There is a saying that isolation is the enemy of improvement. So invite someone in! Schedule some time for this and see what they say. You could offer them some feedback frames like the ones below. While you're at it, make sure you are getting feedback from your students as well. After all, they are the ones with you in that classroom all summer!
"Friendly Feedback" language frames example from Smithsonian STEAM Readers (Download)
Take the time to invest in your teacher self this summer. Use the opportunity of summer school teaching as a platform to reflect on yourself and your needs and implement some new, revitalizing teaching methods. By seeing success in action and having that success validated by a colleague or even your students, you will end summer school feeling more refreshed and recharged than ever!
Interested in learning more? Join me for a free on-demand webinar on Summer School: 3 Considerations for Boosting Teacher Engagement. We will take a deeper dive into how to best reflect on and reinvigorate your teaching practice in summer school.
In this webinar, participants will:
Consider how summer school can be an opportunity for "teacher self-care"
Identify a driving question for your summer school teaching practice
Create a vision of your teaching style and needs
Define your success criteria for summer school
Watch the on-demand webinar at your own pace.
Keller, J. M. (2016). Motivation, learning, and technology: Applying the arcs-V motivation model. Participatory Educational Research, 3(2), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.17275/per.16.06.3.2