Tuesday, May 22, 2012

10 Tips for Summer Break for New Teachers

When people want to complain about teachers having summers off, we always say, "just walk a day in my shoes."  Now that your first year of school is behind you and your first official summer break is upon you, here are some helpful tips for your first teacher summer break.

1.) While it is fresh on your mind, sit back, relax....and then reflect on the year.  What could you do differently?  What are you going to do the same?  Reflection is the best type of growth for teachers because it allows us the opportunity to critique ourselves.  Make a list of top 5 things to keep and change and put them somewhere for you to look back on next school year.

2.) Use this summer to grow as a teacher.  Connect with other teachers using Twitter, or educational sites like TeachHUB or Edutopia.  There are also several social networks created for teachers that you can find as well; like Classroom 2.0.

3.) Start a reading list of blogs to follow.  This is one of the best ways to discover teachers who blog and share tons of resources and tools.  The best starting point is the Edublog Awards.  You can search through the nominations and the winners from previous years and there are categories for every teacher at every grade level.  This is also a great place to find examples of classroom or student blogs if that is something you are thinking of doing in the future.  Google Reader is a good starting point for organizing these blogs. 

4.) Choose a few tools to use with your students next school year.  There are hundreds of Web 2.0 tools that teachers can integrate into the classroom.  It can often times be overwhelming.  Just pick a few that you think enhances your teaching and fosters learning with your students.  Don't pick one just to be using it so you can say you used it.  Choose one with a plan and a purpose for implementing it in the classroom.  I have created a Couple eBooks (Tools for the 21st Century Teacher 1st Edition and 2nd Edition) to help get you started that you might be interested in.  Here is another Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers that you might be interested in as well.  Another option is 35 Tools by Edudemic. Just remember, it is not about the tool...it is about the teacher integrating that tool.

5.) Attend a Conference related to your subject matter or technology integration.  Conferences for your subject matter will probably cost money to attend.  Technology conferences, however, are being held all over the country and are completely free to attend.  You can find a list of EdCamp Conferences through their Wiki that includes dates and locations.  Another option are TeachMeet Conferences.  These gained popularity overseas and have made their way to the United States.  The whole idea behind these conferences is providing relevant professional development that teachers want to be a part of.  They are often catered to the attendees, not the presenters. 

6.) Start collecting and organizing resources that you never had time to look at throughout the first year of your teaching because of all the other requirements of being a teacher.  I prefer to use Diigo to store and track resources that I find on the web.  Here are 13 Reasons teachers Should Use Diigo that is a great starting point for any teacher.

7.) Summer time can be a great time to register for free supplies and stuff for the classroom; because time is limited during the school year to take time to do that.  A valuable blog to bookmark in your Google Reader is Penniless Teacher.  Daily post sharing links to websites offering sweepstakes for teachers needing supplies, books, technology, etc.  It never hurts to try and get free stuff.

8.) Organize your email.  As educators we are bombarded by emails throughout the day.  After a year, you have probably learned who sends junk and who sends important email.  Most email services provide ways to create and organize folders.  Several email services also come with the ability to create rules for emails where you can have emails from certain people sent to folders instead of your inbox...or even delete them before seeing them.  If you use Microsoft Office Outlook WebApp, see HERE for instructions.  For GMail, see HERE.  If you use another service, a simple Google search or the "Help" file will help you learn how.  Some email services might call this "Filters."

9.) Organize and Create Calendars.  In correlation with number 8 above, your calendar can often be the most important tool you ever use.  If you are not currently using a calendar through your email provider, it is highly recommended.  It has truly helped me in the past two years once I realized what I was able to do with categories, creating calendars, syncing to my iPhone, and color coding various responsibilities, it made my life a lot easier.  It could be very important to you learn how to use the calendar features in Outlook and Google.

10.)  Investigate how to use resources to better communicate with students, parents, and the community.  I used Facebook, Twitter, and a Blog this school year with marginal success.  I did not require any use by students, but had several parents share that they were happy I provided this opportunity for them to learn what we were doing in the classroom.  I also uploaded all the work that we did in class onto my classroom webpage so that students had access to them if they were absent or sick.  The summer time is a great time to plan how to use these services to better communicate with your students.