Regardless of if it is assigned or not, I always set a personal goal to read at least three professional development texts each summer so that I can grow as an educator. I want to provide my students with the best possible learning experience. To do so, I need to learn and develop as well. One easy way for me to do that is to read what other teachers and educators are doing in their classroom. While I try to do this during the academic year, as all teachers know, it’s challenging to do while balancing the many other balls we have in the air. So, my summer vacation is dedicated to growing as a teacher.
I attended a meeting organized by my school yesterday to discuss the faculty summer reading requirements. In the past two years, the entire faculty read one book and we came back in late August to discuss it as a whole group. And that was it. Many teachers want more out of the summer reading requirement. How about using the three facets of life at our school as the overarching themes for summer reading? Athletics, Academics, and Student Life would be those three categories. Then, choose 2-3 book titles for each theme. Teachers will then choose the book they want to read over the summer and discuss it in online a forum or blog type setting. When we return to school in late August for faculty meetings, the faculty members that read the same book will meet and discuss the book, contemplating ways we can incorporate what we learned into our school lives. Throughout the year, the groups will meet to discuss how they have implemented the strategies learned in the book. They will also put together a presentation of the big ideas from the text to present to the faculty at a future meeting. So, not only will faculty members learn and grow over the summer as they engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers regarding new ideas, but they will also document how those ideas changed their teaching, coaching, dorm parenting, or advising. It’s not just a one and done activity, it’s a year-long process of growth and development. The ideas that they learn from the book chosen could also be used in the goal setting process. Oh, and if my school goes to a PLC model of professional development for next year, the groups could be organized by the books the teachers choose. Wow, so many great things can come from tweaking the summer reading requirements for faculty members and providing them with choice. It’s kind of like what we do in the classroom for our students. Teachers are students too. What an amazing epiphany.
Although summer vacation is months away and inches of white, fluffy snow still blanket the ground in my town, the time to make changes to the summer reading requirements for faculty members is now. Let’s choose books that teachers want to read so that they learn about new ideas and then find creative ways to implement them because they are engaged and inspired. If we’re all forced to read the same book, just like our students, half of us will hate it and not read it. Then what? How do we grow as a community of learners if only half of us are engaged? Choice is crucial. Let’s mix things up to bring about growth.