Professional Development: 5 Ideas For Developing Your Skills This Summer

One of the great benefits of being a teacher is having the summer off. However, just because you are not in the classroom every day doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be using the summer productively. Last year, we looked at some opportunities teachers could pursue over the summer, which included traveling, getting a job and professional development. But what does professional development really mean? Here are five great ways to enter the next school year with a full head of steam and some new teaching tricks.

Build Your Social Network, Online and Offline

Professional Development: 5 Ideas For Developing Your Skills This Summer

With all of the changes occurring in the education space over the course of the past few years, one new skill professionals in all fields need to have is an active online presence. Whether it’s through a Twitter feed, a professional Facebook page or your LinkedIn page, having a strong online presence is imperative for when it comes time to find a new job or angle for a promotion.

One key is to make sure everything you are putting online is professional. Anyone with Internet access will be able to see what you are posting, whether those are parents of your students, potential future employers or otherwise, make sure everything you are posting is entirely safe for work. The Harvard Business Review wrote an exhaustive article onmanaging your personal social media pages, which is a worthwhile read for those entering the social media landscape.

But just because this is the “Internet Age” doesn’t mean you should neglect building your offline network. Socialize with other teachers and professionals involved in education. They can help you find your next job, students to tutor or can be good resources for dealing with problems that may arise in the classroom. features groups in 253 different cities where you can engage with other teachers and find them both online and offline.

Learning a New Computer Program

As technology becomes more and more a part of the classroom learning experience for students, as a teacher, you want to make sure that you’re one step ahead of the curve. Whether it’s learning how to code, using Prezi instead of PowerPoint for slideshows or something else, learning a new program can greatly increase your educational capacity as a teacher.

One other direction you could go in is to participate in the Technology Summer Camp, which features 10 challenges, each of which requires you to use a different program. This wide variety of guided instruction that is instantly transferable to the classroom could be greatly beneficial for you and your students.

Watch Documentaries In Your Field

Remembering that summer is for relaxation as well as professional development, why not do both at once. Dust off your Netflix account and watch some documentaries, particularly those related to what you teach. Students love a good movie day and if they can learn something while watching a movie, then you can use them as a teaching tool in addition to rewarding students for their hard work.

Some great resources for choosing a film:

Reevaluate Your Lesson Plans

While during the school year, time to do anything comes at a premium, the summer can be a good opportunity to reevaluate what you are doing in the classroom. Maybe you’ve found that some lessons have put students to sleep while others have them fully engaged. Use the extra time you have during the summer to go through and see what works and what doesn’t. For what works, figure out how you can apply that to everything, and for those lessons that could use a fresh set of eyes, the summer can be a great chance to examine how to improve upon what you’re already doing.

Take A Course to Continue Your Own Education

While school may be out for the summer, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still take classes. One option for continuing your education is a MOOC, which stands for “Massive Open Online Course.” Matt Davis of Edutopia collected some available MOOCs here, but the options are truly endless.

Whether it’s pursuing an interest outside of your field or something you can directly apply to the classroom in the fall, using the summer to be the student instead of the teacher can be very beneficial.

For those interested in furthering their education even more, USC’s Rossier Master of Arts in Teaching program is one of the top-ranked graduate programs in the country and can be completed from anywhere. With a slower schedule during the summer, it could be a great time to apply.

–Brian Weidy