This article was written by Andy McCall. Andy is in his 9th year teaching, and does everything to honor his little girl, Penelope, who passed last year. Check him out on his Blog or on Facebook: Penelope's Path.
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Summer professional development is one of those things nobody wants to talk about. You have to do it. You block it out of your mind for 10 months out of the year and especially the week or so after the final bell rings. Then it hits you like a brick wall. Maybe it is an email from the state or maybe it is an email from the Central office. They try to dress it up with words like “engaging”, “opportunity”, “life-long learner” but we all know it as 8 hours of your summer that you will never get back. It means you have to put on real pants, shave, and do a few reps of smile and nod.
I am fortunate to work in a district that gives us an immense amount of choice for our required days, but you can only church it up so much. I’ve been doing this 10 years now and as many advances as we have made in the field of education, Summer PD is still like the kid that you hope is sick on evaluation day, it just keeps coming back. I love where I work and don’t get me wrong, I have learned a lot in some sessions; well in the 20-30 minutes of Stage Two I did.
The 5 Stages of Summer PD
1. COFFEE (Usually lasts about an hour)
You are up. You have semi-matching clothes on and a huge cup of Trader Joe’s coffee that will last you about 15 minutes. You have already shaken hands with 3 people you didn’t want to see until August and realized you might have left all your lights and TV on at the house. They have already introduced the topic and started the PowerPoint. You have no clue what they said or what page you are supposed to be on. Page 4? Already? You heard the words Standards Roll-out and started zoning out immediately.
2. LISTENING (20-30 solid minutes max)
You are zoned in. You have read each PowerPoint slide in its entirety because the coffee is hitting you like the paper wad from little Johnny in the back. You are sorting papers, making notes, and truly understanding what’s going on. It’s like Steve Jobs is sitting at his computer and just created the iPad.Everything is so clear. You are telling yourself, “I do this already. I am on it! This is a piece of cake. My team will be impressed at what I’m bringing back!”
3. HANGRY (The hour remaining until lunch break)
The coffee is starting to fade. Your body knows it is time to eat at its usual 10:55, but it has over an hour before “normal” people take lunch. You can’t fake any more bathroom breaks or somebody will notice. Those little strawberry candies that only magically show up at your grandmother’s house are starting to look appetizing. The presenter is still talking and you are criticizing every single word. Slide #47 even makes you mad because it shows some stock photo of a teacher doing a running record with a smile on their face. It is time to eat and somebody better slide me a Nutri-grain bar before I go ballistic on these sticky notes
4. BORED (The hour after lunch)
You enjoyed an entire hour of sunshine, sandwiches, and anything far from sloppy joes and students. You come back to your seat, feeling reenergized, and thinking you are ready to learn. Slide #54 pops up and you stare at it like the kids in your class learning long division. There are words but you can’t figure them out. You start fidgeting with your highlighter. You have now underlined every word on the page. You are thinking to yourself, “This could have been an email.” You see the presenter struggling to keep your attention but let’s face it, that ship has sailed.
5. TWILIGHT ZONE (The last hour)
Who really knows what happens right now. You already covertly packed up everything you could without looking unprofessional. You are trying to figure out how to hide all the candy wrappers piled in front of you. Everything at this point is now a blur. You have no idea what you are smiling and nodding at now. You could have just signed up for another day and you wouldn’t know it. You don’t care though, you are living for those magic words: “Thank you all for coming today.” They never seem to come though. The candy is gone, your cup is empty, and it looks like zombies have taken over your table. Suddenly you hear those words and you move faster out that back door than the kids racing to get the good swing at recess. The sun’s rays wake you up from the Twilight Zone and there’s nothing more to fear. Well, except PD day #2.