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The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast | ELA

Feb 29, 2024

Welcome to the Thursday edition of The Spark Creativity Teacher Podcast, a podcast for English teachers in search of creative teaching strategies. Whether you’re new to the show or a long-time listener, I’m so glad you’re here for today’s edition of “Highly Recommended.” This week, let’s talk about some of the best summer PD options out there. 

First things first, I’ve got to tell you about my personal favorite summer PD experience of all time, the one my husband still jokingly refers to as my “smoothie grant.” One summer, my school had money left from its PD budget, and invited teachers to apply for small, simple ways to produce something helpful to their work over the summer with a little bit of funding. I applied for a budget to go get a smoothie each morning in June and sit and read and design curriculum at my favorite beach cafe in Los Angeles for an hour or two. I still remember how fun it was to sit on the balcony after rollerblading the beach at sunrise, listening to the surfers walk by, drinking my apple pie smoothie as I reread the Odyssey and thought about how to rewrite the 9th-grade curriculum. It was the perfect way to add a regular bit of work to my summer and feel like it was fun to do. If your school has a budget for summer PD and what you really want to do is work on curriculum, consider getting creative with a grant like this. 

Next on my list I want to mention the National Endowment for the Humanities summer institute series. These cool programs take place all over the United States, giving you a chance to travel to interesting places, dig deep into their culture, and collaborate with colleagues from across the country. This summer they’ll have Grand Coulee Dam: The Intersection of Modernity and Indigenous Cultures in Spokane, Freedom Summer: 60 Years Later in Jackson, Shakespeare and Digital Storytelling in Decatur, and quite a few more.  My husband attended one of the institutes on civil rights years back and remembers it as being absolutely outstanding. 

I consistently hear from people who have found the National Writer’s Project summer workshops extremely impactful, so that’s next. If you’re interested in diving deep into the teaching of writing, I’d look up your closest National Writing Project site and see what they have on offer.

If you’re looking for online options, you might explore the on-demand workshops from Facing History & Ourselves, or the free online course available from the National Museum of the American Indian, “edX Course: Foundations for Transforming Teaching and Learning about Native Americans,” or of course, Camp Creative, the summer PD I run each June (topic to be revealed soon!)  

Finally, I’ll give a quick nod to the Exeter Humanities Institute, a weeklong workshop all about the discussion method, Harkness. I attended this institute after my first year of teaching, following a month-long experiment in each of my classes to use only Harkness as our method of discussion. I learned SO MUCH that week, and it really influenced me as a teacher on a fundamental level. I never used any other discussion method after that, because I just couldn’t imagine NOT using Harkness. Look into the method before committing to a week to go deep with it, but if you find it’s a good fit at your school, this week of PD will be an incredible boost to your ability to help your students shine through the method. 

Of course, self-care, family time, and travel are all also great ways to renew your strength and creativity this summer as well. But if you’re looking for a quality PD experience, these are some of my favorite options, so I highly recommend you follow the links in the show notes and check them out!


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PD Links (as promised!):

National Endowment for the Humanties Summer Institutes

The National Writing Project

The National Museum of the American Indian Online Courses

Facing History and Ourselves On-Demand Learning

The Exeter Humanities Institute