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Avoiding Educator “Summer Slide”

The Perfect Place for Professional Development in the Summer? Your Own Favorite Spot!
The Perfect Place for Professional Development in the Summer? Your Own Favorite Spot!

We all know about the “summer slide,” the fact that many children’s reading and math skills slip back over the months they are not in school. But what about the adults in your school community? What about you? Was your school year so draining that you are thinking a 10-week break from any thought of lessons or students or whiteboards might be your best plan for the summer? Are you feeling duty-bound to read certain recommended books or articles on pedagogy? Is summer when you pursue your own content-related passions? Or, are you still wincing from falling short of the goals you set for last summer?

Rather than have summer resemble the guilt of failed New Year’s Resolutions, consider how you might use the research on motivation to recharge your batteries and be ready to reboot your classroom in the fall with new enthusiasm. In Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink lays out three important factors. I’ve listed the below, as well as how you might tap their motivating power this summer.

  • Autonomy. Whether we’re two or sixty-two years old, humans like to have a say in what they do. If you’ve been handed books to read or lessons to plan, make room for your own interests too. And, if you’re in charge of professional development, ensure that any summer assignments also provide choices. For example, one year we asked all of the teachers at a middle school to read a novel about bullying. We gave them four book suggestions and a menu of choices, matching the differentiation framework the school used, for how they might capture their reflections on the novel. The result? The teachers all reported that they’d found the reading engaging and a great springboard for the back-to-school discussions on school climate and safety.
  • Mastery. Isn’t there great satisfaction in knowing you’ve polished a skill or even become an expert in an area? Where might you wish to do that as an educator? Maybe you struggled with giving feedback instead of advice this year and want to come up with a couple action steps for practicing with your family. Or, be able to name every tree in the neighborhood around your school. Or, master a couple juggling tricks in the fall that you could teach to students. Or, building a personal learning network on Twitter. Or, finally taking time to read everything by a favorite author. Choose something that is small enough to master in 10 weeks yet important enough to you that you’ll want to spend time on it.
  • Purpose. Make sure you know why you’re learning. Personal growth? Improved teaching skills? To have a new way to connect with students? Because it’s a lifelong interest? Because it just might make your classroom a better place for those hard-to-reach students?

As for my summer? I’m working toward mastering the online tools connected with my new book Unleashing the Positive Power of Differences: Polarity Thing for Our Schools (Corwin, November). Polarity Partnerships is providing autonomy by letting me work at my own pace, asking for tutoring as needed. We created a plan so I know I’ll have the basics mastered before the book comes out. And, my purpose is clear: I’ve seen how polarity thinking helps groups move ahead toward mutual goals and I can’t wait to be better equipped to spread the word.

What will motivate you this summer? Let me know how you’re turning Summer Slide into Summer Stretch!

Jane Kise is a consultant and executive coach. The founder of Differentiated Coaching Associates and author of over 20 books, she works with schools and businesses worldwide to help create environments where everyone can flourish.

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