The best laid plans for summer are created during the winter. The summer is a time that teacher’s covet because of the passion they put into their profession during the school year. It is a time to recharge and be with family and friends. It is also a time for world-class professional development opportunities that can be attended for little to no cost, so I choose to plan ahead to give myself the best chance at getting them.
The first step to getting great professional development is to know what is out there. Sure, your district or region probably has some good training opportunities over the summer, but what if you could get better? There are a variety of ways to find out about opportunities available. You could ask the curriculum specialist at your district, you can do a basic Google search, you could seek out Facebook pages dedicated to such things, you can check with your favorite college, etc. I wish there were a place that had those sorts of things listed out for me (and if there is, please shoot me an e-mail and let me know) but there is not so you have to go find them.
This process has lead me to a few outstanding learning opportunities that were either paid for or low cost. The Texas State Historical Association has a number of training opportunities scattered throughout the state every school year. Humanities Texas likewise has a number of opportunities that they will pay for subs to attend or pay for travel during the summer. I have also attended a week long training through Mount Vernon that was completely paid for. The common theme is that I found the opportunity and applied.
Apply and Learn
The next step is to apply. Seems simple, but every time I apply for opportunities in the summer I forget some of the applications due to the busyness of a school year. Make sure you follow up with recommendations if you need to. Make sure you format things the way they request them. Make sure it is completed on time.
Sometimes you will get picked and some times you will not. The key is to ask questions if you are not picked (if you can). If I am turned down, I will e-mail the organization and ask for feedback on my application. Use the rejection as a learning opportunity for the following year. If their response is you are lacking a specific quality, work on it over the next school year. Sometimes you will get actionable responses and sometimes you will not, but it’s worth an e-mail.
My Current Applications
For the summer of 2019 I am taking some big swings with my professional learning. I have applied for a number of trainings through Gilder Lehrman. These are very competitive, so I made sure to get my application in early. I also applied for a fellowship to help write curriculum for a national historical site. I am very hopeful for this one, and should I get it I will definitely update my progress.
This summer has been summarized by change. I’m changing schools, school districts, and subjects taught. The thing I’m most excited about is that I’m going to be closer to home. My commute wasn’t awful, but now I’ll work about ten minutes away from where I live. This is going to allow me to work with kids in my community and hopefully allow me to bring about change for the good in my area of Denton. I was so sad to say goodbye to Coppell, but it was a move that I had been thinking and praying about for a long time.
The other main change that I’ve been thinking a lot about is leaving the G/T classroom for a district that does not have a specifically gifted history classroom. In my new district they have Pre-AP as their only distinctive grouping. I’m not going to start a debate for one and against another because that’s not productive at all. The change is stirring up philosophical questions for me like, “is separating gifted kids what is best for everyone?”, “what is the best way to break up students into leveled groups?”, and “how will my teaching need to change given my new context?” I’m not sure that I have answers to any of these questions, but I’ll be wrestling with them throughout the next few school years for sure.
My wife is from east Texas. She grew up in Longview, TX but her parents now live in Tyler, TX (seems spooky that she married a Tyler) so we visit from time to time. On consistent time we see them is on the 4th of July to celebrate Independence Day. We spent a bit more time in Tyler than we usually do, which gave me the opportunity to sample some of east Texas’ finest BBQ (according to Texas Monthly’s list).
Having sampled the best BBQ in my area fairly recently, I was excited to sample something fairly close to it. When I asked Haley’s father (who has competed in BBQ competitions before) where he would go for great food, he never really mentioned Stanley’s as being at the top of the list. My wife, baby and I went to Stanley’s on a Friday during lunch and initially were worried because the parking was very spotty. We found some parking behind the main dining area and walked down the metal steps to the bar and live music stage. No one was playing this particular Friday morning, but we both decided it would be a great place to watch live music…without a baby in tow. My wife saved a table for our group that had a great view of Beckham St. and I went into the smallish indoor seating area to order. My wife got a sliced brisket sandwich while I chose the two meat plate with sliced brisket and turkey. Most traditional BBQ people will go with ribs and brisket, but I love the flavor of great smoked turkey and if it’s done right is fantastic. One thing I noticed about the menu was they gave you a guide to ordering brisket, prompting you to tell the person taking your order if you’d like fatty or more bark. I didn’t specify to see what they would give me. The wait for food wasn’t bad even though we showed up in the middle of a minor lunch rush. The portions could have been a little bigger, although if I wanted a ton of food I could have ordered the meat of my choice by the pound. My wife’s sandwich seemed to be very lean brisket, which she enjoyed, while my brisket came with a great bark and smoke ring. There wasn’t a ton of fat on the brisket, but there was plenty for the portion I was given. It tasted wonderful and I consumed it without any of the sauce that was placed on our outdoor table. The turkey was smokey and peppery, exactly how I like a smoked turkey. The side items that came with my plate were pretty good, but I wasn’t there for beans and cole slaw. The friends we were there with sampled some ribs as well as brisket and their opinion was that the pork ribs weren’t as meaty as they could have been, but maybe they were from the end of the rack.
All things considered, we really enjoyed our trip to Stanley’s and will definitely be back in future trips to Tyler, TX. I would love to go check out some live music on their outdoor patio or see what their breakfast menu looks like. Next time I’m going to branch out and try out some different things to see the scope of their products.
This past week our family entered a brand new phase. Since May 1, Haley (and sometimes I) haven’t been able to sleep in longer than four hour increments. We went on our annual trip to Lake Tyler for Independence Day and something magical happened. Without us needing to have her stay in bed crying or do some weird sleeping night feed, Caroline decided it was time for her to sleep through the night. Four days in a row Caroline has slept in her own crib from approximately 10 PM until 6 AM the following day. Haley couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t be prouder of my baby girl. Hopefully she keeps up her awesome work at the game of life!
Most teachers I know have some goal that they set for their summers. Sometimes it’s to spend time with their families, travel a lot, or even spend time reworking their classroom for the following school year. For me, this summer is being characterized by waking up early to do P90X early in the morning before the rest of my family wakes up and growing a beard.
I have done the P90X program before, but this summer (so far) I have really committed to staying with the schedule. It’s been really good for me to wake up a little early and work out because it gives me time to finish and relax a little bit before our baby gets up and it’s family time. The workouts usually take about an hour (sometimes more) and I use my upstairs game room to keep the noise to a minimum downstairs. Oddly enough, I’ve really enjoyed trying the Yoga portion of the program even though I’m terrible at it and usually give up well before the end. I’m also still working to finish the Ab Ripper portion of the program, but I get better every time I try it. I’ve also been going on long-ish walks every night when I have the opportunity. I started downloading podcasts to keep me entertained on my walks. I’ve even thought about starting back up on the Couch to 5K program, but as of yet I have not. Overall I’ve enjoyed the summer workout regime and hope to keep it up through the summer and into the school year.
I have a love/hate relationship with the beard growing enterprise. Some days I really love the look of me in a beard. I’ve always humored the idea of growing a full beard and I usually grow some sort of facial hair during the summer, since I can’t grow any during the school year. The problem I’m finding with my beard is that some days it doesn’t bother me at all and other days it is itchy and almost unbearable. My goal was to grow out my beard for the entire summer, but depending on the day that may or may not happen. For now, I’ll keep it and I’ll post some before and after pictures after I shave again.