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Books, Podcasts, TEDTalks and More: The Teachers’ Ultimate Guide to DIY Summer Professional Development

Books, Podcasts, TEDTalks and More: The Teachers’ Ultimate Guide to DIY Summer Professional Development

Yes, teachers may have summer break away from the classroom—but that doesn’t mean you have three months off. In between vacations, get-togethers with friends and family, and some much-needed rest and relaxation, teachers devote a lot of time and energy to thinking about how they can return to the classroom better than ever in the fall.

Seriously, teachers, how do you fit it all in?

In order to help you this summer, we did the research for you. We put together this guide with some of our favorite resources for pedagogy updates, classroom strategies, and educator inspiration—no matter what your style is!

If you love to connect but can’t attend conferences. . .

Opportunities to connect and collaborate with peers are priceless when it comes to developing your teaching practice. Conferences and workshops are great options for getting this kind of face time, but not everyone has the budget to afford expensive outings like that. Here are a few ideas for summer professional development that can be done at home, on the beach, or by the pool.

Consider outside-the-box ideas

During the schoolyear, when you hear about a cool new idea for your classroom, you probably don’t have time to fully research it, much less implement a change. Now, it’s summer. You have all the time in the world—or at least it feels that way at the start.

Maybe it’s time to rethink your approach to grading or homework, and you’d like to dig into some literature on flipping the classroom or competency-based learning. Perhaps you’re due to have more ELL students or those with varying exceptionalities, and you need some new intervention and differentiation strategies. Or possibly you’re simply bored and want to learn. Whatever the case, now is the time to transform your practice.

Expand your PLN

Just because you didn’t go to a conference this year doesn’t mean you can’t hear from and meet inspiring educators from around the world. There are alternative ways to expand your personal learning network (PLN).

First, check out the wealth of Twitter chats out there for teachers. Here’s a list from ISTE, but new chats are being established all the time. You can also participate in some groups on Google+ or LinkedIn. Or just spend the day on Pinterest—you’ll find plenty of resources and materials no matter what grade or subject you teach. Get started by following Edmentum on Pinterest!

Take a MOOC

A massive open online course (MOOC) is a great way to learn from home. The offerings, which used to be more collegiate in nature, are growing to encompass all sorts of professions—including teaching. There are simply too many to cover here, so if you’re interested, consult this list from MOOC List.

Read—then read some more

Teachers rarely have the time to read for themselves during the school year. Whether reading books that discuss education (deeply or esoterically) or have nothing to do with education at all, it is both a stress reliever and a mind expander. Fit as much of it into the summer as you can.

If you’re a podcast enthusiast. . .

Podcasts are a multitasker’s dream, which is why they have become a popular alternative to blogs. A good podcast is a perfect way to make mundane tasks, such as driving, catching up on paperwork, or working on chores around the house, more interesting. And given how active educators are online, it’s no surprise that many of these podcasts are education focused. Here, we’ve compiled a few that every teacher should check out.

Best practice tip: Most smartphone operating systems have a native podcast app that allows you to subscribe to podcasts and download episodes for listening on the go. If you don’t listen on your native smartphone app or just want something with a few more features, the Stitcher app is a great free platform.

#EdChat Radio

Many of the same people who produce the popular #EdChat Twitter discussion have come together to make this weekly podcast that discusses current issues in education. This show is based more on news and broad industry discussion rather than actionable tips, but it’s a great resource to stay on the cutting edge of the profession.

Talks with Teachers  

This podcast is perfect for ELA teachers. Brian Sztabnik invites some of the preeminent thought leaders in education to the show to discuss what works in English language arts classrooms and what doesn’t, and he asks them to share stories to help motivate all of the teachers out there.


Studentcentricity is all about connecting with each and every student in your classroom. Recent episodes have focused on ELL education, inquiry, and productive struggle. This podcast is a great resource if you want to work on building rapport and engagement in your classroom.

#EdTechChat Radio  

Looking for some new ideas to utilize technology in your classroom? The weekly #EdTechChat Twitter conversation carries over to this podcast, where recent episodes have included discussions on digital portfolios, augmented reality, and blended professional development.

The Flip Side  

Flipped learning pioneer Jon Bergmann hosts this podcast dedicated to those who are currently working in a flipped classroom or considering making the switch. There is no one better to learn the ins and outs of flipping from.

EdSurge Podcast

EdSurge is a great source of news and commentary on edtech, education policy, and blended learning trends. Its weekly podcast keeps those discussions going with thought-provoking interviews, debates, and updates specific to higher education and the broader field of edtech.

If you’re a true bookworm. . .

If you’re one of those educators who likes to develop yourself professionally at the beach rather than at a conference, books tend to be the tools you choose. Yet, because it’s summer, you might want to stay out of the realm of deep strategies and education theory. Here are some choices that are accessible and still effectual.

Happy Teachers Change the World: A Guide for Cultivating Mindfulness in Education by Thich Nhat Hanh and Katherine Weare

Mindfulness has been making waves. No wonder why—more and more research is showing that simple practices pay big dividends in improving students’ academic outcomes and well-being. This title is the first comprehensive manual on the Thich Nhat Hanh/Plum Village approach to mindfulness in education, ranging from pre-K grades through postsecondary education.

Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why by Paul Tough

Tough is the author of the successful How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, in which he discussed research that points to grit and other personality traits that successful children tend to share. In his follow-up book, he talks about how to create these traits. He asserts that these traits cannot be taught effectively. Instead, he argues that we should create the kinds of environments that foster their development organically.

LAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

Maker education is a big topic, but we tend to think of it as the domain of computer science, engineering, and industrial arts classes. LAUNCH discusses and provides processes for instilling the kinds of skills students need to be makers in any class. Coincidentally, those skills, like questioning and critical thinking, are the same ones called for by next-gen standards.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood . . . and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin

With increasingly diverse schools and a persistent achievement gap, issues of race and equality are just as important today as they have ever been. Emdin offers plenty of cogent insights about the state of the nation’s urban schools and how teachers—of any race—can be more effective in them. His ideas are more than just strategies and getting-to-know-you activities. They can be transformative for a school. 

Who's Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris

Even though it’s a part of many research-based models, such as gradual release, lots of teachers struggle with handing over control and letting their students figure out things for themselves. Although this book focuses on reading (and does offer strategies rather than general discussion), it can get teachers in other subject areas to think about the way their classrooms run too.

Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy D. Walker

Finland has been a top performer on international academic achievement tests since the early 2000s. What’s its secret? In this new release, the author explores how Finland’s low-pressure, less-is-more approach to education is producing happy students—which just might be the key to their success.

If you’re considering National Board Certification. . .

Props to you overachievers! The window to identify yourself as a candidate for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for the upcoming school year opened in April and goes through the end of next January. For more than 25 years, being Board-certified has been an aspiration of many educators, with more than 110,000 having accomplished the task.

The process was recently modified to be less of a burden for teachers both financially (the cost was decreased to $1,900) and in terms of time commitment (teachers can now take up to five years to complete the requirements instead of just one). But make no mistake; National Board Certification remains the most rigorous professional development challenge many teachers will encounter in their careers.

The certification process is made up of four components: an online assessment of subject area knowledge and three separate sections of a portfolio that includes video and written reflection on your teaching practices. A common estimate of the total time invested by teachers who have accomplished certification is somewhere between 200–300 hours, including testing and taking video of lessons.

Although the value of certification is widely recognized, National Board cost reimbursements and salary bonuses were some of the first education budget items that many states cut when the 2008 economic recession hit. However, there are still quite a few ways to make your certification pay off, including district and Title I grants, crowdfunding campaigns to cover costs, and salary incentives at the district level. For details on what your state supports, click here.

If you are considering enrolling in the certification process or have already done so, here are three tips for success:

Be realistic

Even though the time commitment has been stretched out (pity the teachers who had only one year to get everything done), Board certification is still a considerable time investment; expect to dedicate at least a few hours per week on average. Think of it as taking on some part-time work on the side. If your current schedule doesn’t allow for a side job, consider waiting.

Establish a network

Certification can be a stressful, lonely process without a support system. Reach out to other teachers in your district or area who are also pursuing certification or who have already accomplished it for tips and encouragement. Plus, it’s always helpful to have someone who’s been there to vent to when you’re struggling with that latest reflection piece or when something doesn’t save correctly.

Lay the groundwork early

You may have five years to attempt each of the four components of your certification, but certain things need to be in place before you begin, so do your best to avoid procrastination. Make sure that you’ve collected release forms from your students so that they can appear in videos and have their work used in your portfolio. It’s also important to come up with a method to keep your portfolio materials organized—whether that’s a OneNote, Google Docs, or an old-fashioned accordion file. Finally, if you are lucky enough to have your costs covered by your state, district, or a scholarship, those forms need to be completed in advance.

If you just need some good, old-fashioned TED Talk inspiration. . .

Every educator wants to return to the classroom in the fall reenergized. TED Talks are one great way to take in a thought-provoking perspective and get a nice dose of motivation over the summer. And, lucky for teachers, there are lots of great TED Talks devoted to the topic of education. Here are four of our favorite talks full of creative strategies and meaningful insights to keep educators inspired!

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion

Rita Pierson, a 40-year veteran teacher, calls for educators to embrace the challenges of the profession and focus on building genuine relationships with students. Her talk is a powerful reminder of the academic success all students are capable of achieving when they are empowered to believe in their own abilities.

Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science

TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada teaches citizen science (public involvement in scientific research) and invention at a school in Hong Kong. He encourages students to get interested in science by offering them opportunities in the classroom to explore and solve real environmental problems. With this approach, Harada teaches his budding environmentalists a lesson that he lives by: “You can make a mess, but you have to clean up after yourself.”

Christopher Emdin: Teach teachers how to create magic

Christopher Emdin, a longtime teacher, science advocate, and founder of Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., makes the argument that teachers need to be taught more than pedagogy—they must learn to be storytellers. Emdin talks about the power of rap shows, barbershop conversations, Sunday services, and other social institutions to enthrall audiences, and he asserts that the kind of “magic” they create can be taught.

Linda Cliatt-Wayman: How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard

Linda Cliatt-Wayman was acutely familiar with the challenges facing Philadelphia’s schools, but in her first year as a principal in the district, she realized the deep complexities of the job. By setting clear, strict expectations while consistently reminding students of her love for them, she has been able to turn around three underperforming schools. In her compelling talk, Cliatt-Wayman offers important strategies for overcoming issues of poverty and inequality in education.

Happy summer vacation teachers! No matter what professional development goals you set for yourself this summer, don’t forget to make time for plenty of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation—you’ve certainly earned it!

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