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Professional Learning: Using Summer to Recharge and Reflect

As an educator, I can't help but feel a sense of anticipation and excitement in the weeks leading up to summer vacation. It's a unique juncture where the classroom hustle and bustle slowly settles, and a well-deserved break awaits me. Yet, amidst the prospect of unwinding and recharging, I often find myself unable to resist the allure of contemplating the next academic year, brimming with new projects, possibilities, and the opportunity to make a difference once again.

Recharging Our Spirits

As dedicated educators, our passion for teaching extends beyond the classroom walls. Sometimes I find it difficult to turn off the perpetual flame that drives me to seek continual improvement and innovation in my classroom. However, it is crucial to recognize the significance of rejuvenation and rest in being my best self, not only in the classroom, but my personal life as well. Teaching is a demanding vocation, requiring unwavering dedication and boundless energy. The summer break provides a precious opportunity to recharge our batteries and reconnect with our personal passions. Engaging in activities that bring joy and fulfillment, be it exploring nature, indulging in creative pursuits, or simply spending quality time with loved ones, replenishes our spirits and revitalizes our enthusiasm.

Here are a few ways that I recharge in the summer months:

  1. Disconnect and Unplug: Teaching can be mentally and emotionally demanding, so it's crucial to take time to disconnect from technology and unplug from the constant demands of emails, notifications, and virtual connectivity. I try to set aside dedicated periods each day or even a few days during the summer break to disconnect from screens and immerse myself in offline activities like tending to my garden and bees. Embracing this digital detox can help restore mental clarity, reduce stress, and foster a sense of balance and well-being.
  2. Immerse in Nature: One powerful way to recharge my batteries is by immersing myself in the beauty and wonders of nature. I love spending time outdoors, exploring national parks, hiking trails, or local natural habitats. Engaging in activities like birdwatching, stargazing, or simply taking peaceful walks in serene environments helps me to reconnect with the natural world and it reminds me of what initially drew me to becoming a science teacher.
  3. Engage in Creative Pursuits: Cultivating creativity through artistic pursuits can be incredibly therapeutic and rejuvenating. Creative endeavors are an outlet for me and my self-expression. It allows me to tap into my inner artist and explore different facets of my identity and talents. Moreover, I find it to be a meditative process that brings a sense of joy, relaxation, and fulfillment.

Reflecting on Our Teaching Journeys

While summer beckons me with visions of leisure and relaxation, with my personality, it quickly grows old! Summer also provides an opportunity for reflection. It invites us to pause and ponder the lessons learned, both within and outside the curriculum. It prompts us to delve into our experiences, uncovering insights that can shape our future endeavors. By examining the triumphs and challenges of the past year, we gain a clearer understanding of our teaching style, strengths, and areas that warrant refinement. Armed with this self-awareness, we can chart a course towards professional growth, creating a blueprint for transforming our classrooms into vibrant spaces of discovery and curiosity.

So when you are ready to shift gears this summer, here are a few ideas to reignite your passion:

  1. Attend Professional Development: Summer is the perfect time to engage in workshops, conferences and professional learning. They are great events to help you connect with experts and fellow educators, as well as learn about new methodologies and strategies for teaching and learning. Check out LabXchange’s upcoming events.
  2. Update Your Curriculum: Take advantage of the summer break to review and update your curriculum materials. With LabXchange’s library of over 22,000 quality science resources, incorporate new experiments, demonstrations, and interactive activities sure to ignite your students’ curiosity.
  3. Engage in STEM Projects: Immerse yourself in scientific research or embark on a STEM project over break. Not only will you deepen your understanding of science and real world applications, but the experience will bring a new level of authenticity to your teaching. LabXchange is offering a new, paid summer STEM-related opportunity for US-based middle and high school educators! Twenty select participants will receive a $4,000 stipend for the development of 10 lesson plans in a 3-month design project. Learn more and apply here. (Deadline to apply is June 19, 2023!)
  4. Read: Dive into the world of science education literature. Discover new blogs and podcasts that explore innovative teaching strategies, learning about the latest theories and evidence-based practices.

By embracing the duality of summer—rejuvenation and reflection—we unlock the door to endless possibilities. The transitional period becomes a fertile ground for inspiration, as we envision innovative projects, experiment with novel teaching approaches, and cultivate a sense of renewed purpose within ourselves. Summer serves as a canvas upon which we can paint the dreams and aspirations that will shape the upcoming academic year, igniting a flame of possibilities that propels us forward.

Written by
Jennifer Conklin-Frank
Head of Educator Programming & Engagement

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