Summer Learning in a Few Hours

July 24, 2018

One of the most remarkable aspects of my summertime is that I have more time that is less rushed.  I have more time in my car going from place to place; I have more time in my house sorting through a years’ worth of clutter; I have more time on my porch enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  I am mindful to use this time wisely and make the most of the weeks of the summer when the email traffic is light and there are no student fires to put out. I try to use this time to read, listen, watch and write.  

I have been listening to a lot of Cult of Pedagogy Podcasts.  I really enjoy listening to Jennifer Gonzalez, because she has great ideas and guests.  This week, I listened to the Podcast titled To Boost Higher Order Thinking, Try Curation.  The ideas of engaging students – and teachers – in high levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy really resonated with me.  With so much information available at all times, it is so imperative that students and faculty have strategies to decide which resources to use.  Curation as an instructional strategy, especially when coupled with a written explanation, has the potential to push students deep into analysis and synthesis of their work and thinking.  

While listening to Gonzalez, I decided that I would create a curated list of my best learning from early summer.  What have I listened to or read that is worth precious summer time? Below are eight great resources for teachers and school leaders broken down by medium.   

Podcasts

https://betterleadersbetterschools.com/153-jess-hutchinson/

I listen to Danny Sunshine Bauer every week.  This episode hit home for me. What I loved about Jess was how authentic and intentional she was.  She had great strategies for managing the work/home separation and spoke about the importance and authenticity of her relationships with faculty, students and families.  Jess helped me understand that you can be the same person at home and at school, and that there is value in bringing your authentic self – whatever that means – into your school and really embracing your true self in your various roles and relationships.  I am pretty sure I will listen to this one again this summer and spend some time reflecting on the ideas she shared.

https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/makerspace/

Jennifer Gonzalez did it again,  really uncovering a hot topic and making it accessible.  What I loved about this interview with John Spencer was the discussion on the mindset of making, and the suggestions for incorporating making, a makerspace or a pop-up maker cart into a wide range of units.  Gonzalez and Spencer really uncovered how making can exist in many learning environments, discussing that makerspaces are not just for the privileged schools with tremendous space and technological resources.  I loved the idea of a maker cart and will be finding ways to incorporate that idea into my school’s curriculum this year. I need families to start collecting beautiful junk – my cogs are turning!!

https://www.principalcenter.com/barbara-blackburn-rigor-in-your-school-a-toolkit-for-leaders/

Rigour is something I have been thinking about.  Justin and Barbara discuss four elements of rigour in a school: environment, high expectations, appropriate personalized support and demonstrations of learning.  Barbara is also very clear about what rigour is not – it is not harder work or more work. Rigour is a commitment to holding students and teachers accountable for getting where they can go.  What impressed me about this discussion was that the conversation came back to school culture and how a school leader can influence rigour through the professional culture he or she supports. Barbara offers up some great ideas, a few of which I am planning to use as I open school this year, and directs the listener to free resources and tools.  What I love about Principal Centre podcasts is that they are always under 30 minutes – a perfect length for a daily commute or morning coffee!

Blog Posts

http://www.spencerauthor.com/teacher-rest/

This post is the essence of summertime for teachers.  Take time to rejuvenate and rest. Take time to slow down and enjoy the pace of hot summer days.  When you are ready, consider the possibilities for personal and professional growth. I am so proud of how my faculty have embraced summer as a time to be outside, enjoy family time, prioritize self-care and also carve out some time for learning.  I am confident that our school community, culture and instructional opportunities will be better after the summer. Teachers have cared for themselves, personally and professionally. Let this mindset and framework guide the way you look at summer vacation.

https://www.edutopia.org/article/flexible-classrooms-research-scarce-promising

Flexible seating is something by which I have been intrigued, and I have been engaging in conversation with faculty about this topic.  This article outlines the scarce research on flexible seating, and discusses that it is not the seating itself that makes the difference, but rather the learning structures that flexible seating allows.  So if you are making a pitch for flexible seating, you are really looking for an environment to support innovative learning structures. This change in mindset is really helpful in intentionally choosing flexible seating  and with the highest return on investment.

https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/grammar-spelling-errors/

So many teachers fall into the trap described in this post.  Gonzalez shares empirical analysis to prove why teaching grammar for grammar’s sake does not work!  Focusing on authentic writing and targeted mini-lessons will enable students to improve. Her post has great tips and tricks to help students improve their spelling and grammar with engagement and success.

Books

Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga shook me to my core.  It is a book that every Canadian, especially ever Canadian educator, must read.   The book shares the story of seven teenagers who have died in the care of public education in Thunder Bay.  Through their stories, the oppression and circumstances of First Peoples living in Northern Canada are exposed.  In addition, the history of the Residential School System is shared, and the sad state of education in Northern Ontario is highlighted.  Reading this book shifted my perspective on the need for truth and reconciliation education in all of our schools.

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There are still many more weeks of summer, weeks to adventure and explore weeks to enjoy the heat and the pace of lazy days.  Should you be ready to turn your attention to self development and professional growth, this curated list of online material can help you as a teacher, teacher leader or school leader.  Relax, enjoy the sunshine and consider carving out an hour a week to explore some of the great resources available in cyberspace!