Student-Led Conferences: Practical Guide & Resources

Have you ever felt parent teacher conferences become a blur of shallow compliments and trite suggestions?  Have you ever worried about the quality of students’ involvement?  Do you want parents to gain more meaningful insight on how their children spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week?  Then consider shifting to student led conferences!


Background

After a couple years of traditional parent teacher conferences, I began to doubt their value.  Attendance was patchy, and the bulk of meetings that did take place often felt inconsequential.  Given the vast expenditure of time and energy in preparations, conferences generally seemed to yield trivial returns–goals quickly forgotten, behavior largely unchanged, and work samples simply discarded.  All that changed when my school introduced student-led conferences.

Step-by-Step Guide

Note that this is geared toward upper-elementary.  However, it can easily be adapted for younger and older students–our entire school adopted student-led conferences. 

Stage #1: Introduce Student-Led Conferences to Students (Estimated time: 30 min)
  • Kathy Cassidy
    Kathy Cassidy

    Give a labeled folder to each student to keep conference materials organized.

  • Hand out the “During Conference Checklist” students will use.  With this, students should:
    • Write down 2 items or areas of the classroom they want to share during the first part of conferences.
    • Write down their current feelings about reading, writing, math, and behavior.
    • Choose a writing and math sample. (I had my students keep their portfolios on blogs, so I gave them the option to present digital samples as well).
  • Give students their report cards, progress reports, and/or other records that are to be shared during conferences.  Let them know they need to be familiar with everything on it, so to ask for clarification as needed.
Stage #2: Make Goals (Estimated time: 45 min.)
  • Brainstorm as a class possible areas for improvement in math, reading, writing, and behavior.
  • Teach class about writing goals according to your school or grade level standards.  Our team used SMART goals (s=specific, m=measurable, a=attainable, r=relevant, t=time-bound).  I also like Kath Murdoch’s idea of 1-word goal-making.
  • Have them write 1 goal for each subject area on the brainstorming sheet and turn them in.
  • Give back to students to write their final goals after you have reviewed them.
Stage #3: Meet with each student (est. time: 5 min. per student)
  • Make sure their conference folder has all required items in order (I gave each student this list to organize their work.  I also post it on the whiteboard, and have students sign up to meet with me once their folders are completely ready).
  • Double-check the finalized goals.
  • If your grading system has a “social skills” or behavior field, consider having the student self-grade with you.  Have a discussion on what each grade means (ie, 4 means “I rarely need reminders or help in this area,” 3 means “I sometimes need reminders and I could work on this area,” etc.).  Not only have I found that students are often harder on themselves than I am, but the increased ownership better prepares them for sometimes tough conversations with their parents.
  • Go over the “During Conference” checklist together.  Discuss any questions on how to present each area.
Stage #4: Final Preparations
  • Send letters home to parents from teacher and/or from students to prepare them for student-led conferences. If you want to provide questions in advance to help prepare parents, students, and yourself, check out our printable Student-Led Conferences Guided Questions list!
  • Have students practice going over their checklist with a classmate (tell them they can leave out sensitive items like their report cards).  Use a stopwatch to give them a realistic idea of the timeframe.
Stage #5: After Conference Tips

Student and Parent Response

After each conference, I surveyed parents and students.  Below is some of the feedback I frequently received.

Meme
Meme Binge

Students loved:

  • Removing the frightening anticipation of grown-ups discussing unknown issues during conferences (avoiding situations such as the one on the right).
  • The opportunity to “show off” some of the things they were most proud of.
  • How professional they felt as they took the lead.

Parents loved:

  • How knowledgeable students were about their own progress and responsibilities.
  • Students taking the lead with the teacher helping where needed.
  • How students explained their report cards themselves.
  • The pride and ownership students took in showing their work.

Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Time allocations: Make sure there’s plenty of time for parents to ask questions and have further, informative discussions as needed!
  • Inadequate student practice: Let students practice at least 2 times in class.  This will help them with both confidence and purposeful time management.
  • Inadequate student organization: Use the conference folder items list to go through every item as an entire class one more time right before conferences start.
  • Hesitation to Jump In: One parent voiced concern that problems were sugar-coated, and that she could not speak freely because of the student’s presence.  Let your students know beforehand that in order for conferences to be effective, everyone needs to be 100% on the same page, and that you will redirect the conversation if necessary.
  • Unengaging Parent Homework: At first, we assigned parents to write a letter to their children reflecting on their feelings about the conference.  However, very few parents completed the assignment.  We switched to emailing a Google Form survey for them to share feedback on conferences.  Some of the questions we asked included:
    • What made you feel proud?
    • Do you feel your student’s goals match the areas in which he/she can improve?  If not, what are additional areas in which you feel he/she can improve?
    • How can you help your student remember and succeed at his/her goals at home?

List of Resources Linked Throughout:

Photo Credit: 

Featured Image: Claire Burge

Kathy Cassidy

Meme Binge

3 Practical Formative Assessments

When you barely have time to suck down occasional gulps of air amid swells of paperwork, it’s understandable to lose some perspective.  Unfortunately, this is a condition many teachers face when it comes to approaching formative versus summative assessments.


 

Opportunity for impact?

But how important is it, really, to keep track of such minute details on student progress?  Well, Google defines formative as, “serving to form something, especially having a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.”  Black and Wiliam found “that innovations which include strengthening the practice of formative assessment produce significant, and often substantial, learning gains.”  And we have discovered teacher-student relationships become elevated as students recognize just how invested teachers are in their daily progress–not just in what they produce at the end of units.

The nature of the beast

Formative assessments do not cast the intimidating shadow of their summative counterparts.  They are so authentically woven into the day, it can feel almost spontaneous as you uncover quiet learning moments, pinpointing students’ true understanding. Meanwhile, summatives are not only highly concrete and measurable, but they’re also accompanied by pressure for results–pressure that may come from administrators, parents, politicians, and even sometimes teachers themselves.

Educator’s catch 22

And so, we run into the classic teacher dilemma: on the one hand, we know part of the value of formative assessments lies their authentic, unassuming quality; on the other, it is precisely that quality that makes it easy for them to slip under the radar.   The key is to make a plan for a record-keeping strategy that works for you.  This sounds easy enough, but it does take a little trial and error as you find one or more methods that feel comfortable and easily accessible in the flow of your classroom.  Below are a few personal favorites, all of which have functioned well in various contexts.

3 Strategies

1. Confer App
Image retrieved from Conferapp.com
Image retrieved from Conferapp.com

This is the Mary Poppins carpet bag of education apps.  No matter how full I’d pack in anecdotal notes for each student, it stayed organized and easy to navigate.  It was also easy to share with parents during parent-teacher conferences.  Some details I appreciated include:

  • The option to sort notes in practical ways, including by student names, groups, and feedback.
  • A design in that’s conducive to appropriate feedback with fields like “strength,” “teaching point,” and “next step”–great to remind teachers to look for what’s going well along with what needs work.
  • The ability to apply one note to multiple students simultaneously–and the fact that it saves a previously-used note so you don’t have to type out the same phrase again.
  • The color coded flags to remind you who currently needs some extra support.

Note: At first, some students were unsure about my typing on my phone during our discussions–they worried I was texting, or otherwise distracted.  Be sure to introduce this method of note-taking to your whole class, telling them exactly how you are using your phone during your conferences.

2. Notecard Waterfalls

This one is a bit old-school, but I found it especially handy for reading groups.  I would write each student’s name on one notecard, sort them into their groups, and then tape them into a waterfall on half a piece of laminated cardstock per group.  (see photos below) I found this to be the perfect place to keep tallies for simplified running records and reading notes.  After a student would read aloud, I would say something like this:

“Ok, I’m writing that you are rocking your punctuation expression.  You paused appropriately at every comma and period!  I’m also writing that we’re working on paying attention to the endings of words, since you left off -ing and -s a couple times as you read.  Do you want me to add anything else for us to remember next time we work on reading together?”

This kind of feedback was quick and simple, but extremely effective as it kept us both on the same page.  Another bonus: when a card would fill up, I could easily throw it in the student’s file and pop in another one.

Waterfall booklet

3. Status of the Class
Image retrieved from Teacher Supply Store
Image retrieved from Teacher Supply Store

Status of the Class is the perfect tool to keep track of student-driven projects or independent work time.  Simply call out each student’s name, and then jot down their selected task on a class list.  This works well for long-term processes involving steps, stages, or centers with which the students are already familiar, such as the Writer’s Workshop, the scientific method, or math or literacy stations.  Some advantages include:

  • Stay informed of where you can coach students in their individual processes.
  • Teach students metacognition as you require them to give a brief statement explaining both the what and the why of their choice. (I would periodically model how that would sound right before taking Status of the Class to remind them how to explain their choice.  For example:  “I’m working on illustrating because I want to better visualize how to describe my characters,” or “I’m going to read to myself because I just got to a cliff-hanger in my book.”
  • Keep track of students who seem to be stuck in one place.
  • Maintain accountability for students who may get off-task during independent learning time.
  • If appropriate, give on-the-spot feedback as you help students learn to spend independent time wisely (ie, “I see you’ve chosen that 3 times in a row here.  How else could you spend your time to help you grow?”)

Tips: Use wet-erase marker to write on a laminated class list chart, such as the one pictured, and keep it posted in the room so students can also keep track of how they’ve been spending their time.  Make a key for your abbreviations on the bottom.

What are some of your favorite methods for practical formative assessments?

Featured Image: Elli Pálma via Flickr Creative Commons

More Evidence for Twitter’s Professional Development Potential

We were impressed by one school’s use of Twitter for a teacher-led professional development chat.  We’ve written on Twitter’s potential for professional development before, so we thought it would be a great idea to share what that looks like in action!  We interviewed Principal Matt Webster (@MWebster158) and teacher Laura Komos (@LauraKomos) at Martin Elementary School to find out how they did it and how you can get started, too!

The Chat:

Storify of “mock Twitter chat”:

Questions they discussed:
  • Q1: What’s one new (tech or non-tech) tool or idea you’ve tried with your kids recently?
  • Q2: What is a tool or technique you’d like to learn more about?
  • Q3: How are you utilizing the Collaboration Rooms in the Husky Hub?
  • Q4: What are your other students doing while you meet with small groups?
  • Q5: What does your Target/RtI time look like?

The Interview:

How often does your school’s staff have PD Twitter chats?
  • Matt: The #martin158 chat that you saw was a specific PD session at Martin today.  We have a PD Menu at our school (new this year) that is driven and created by the teachers wants and needs.  One of the October sessions happened to be Twitter as Resource.  Part II of this PD session was a mock twitter chat for new users to experience and learn the ins and outs of a chat on Twitter.  Other PD sessions offered over the next 2 months include:
    • Flipped Classrooms
    • 40 Book Challenge
    • Picture Books to reinforce Figurative Language and Comprehension Strategies
    • Co-Teaching
    • Blogging
    • Virtual Fieldtrips
    • Independent Practice Time – Differentiating
How does the Twitter chat support other PD at your school?
  • Matt: What we plan on doing is turning the #martin158 practice chat into a monthly chat where we can post questions and discussion on PD topics that have already happened or are upcoming.
How did you initially approach PD Twitter chats with the staff?
  • Matt: We introduced Twitter to the whole staff last year at a staff meeting (phones were required J).  Followed that up with this PD Menu session and will continue it with monthly chats using #martin158
Tell us about some of the logistics of a staff Twitter chat.
  • Created with behappy.me
    Created with behappy.me

    Matt: For the PD, it was all staff interested staying after school experiencing it and asking questions together.  We have 100 staff (1,025 kids 3rd-5th) so not all are interested.  But the interest is growing.  We ask a lot of questions as admin and try really hard to follow up.  So if a teacher or group of teachers say they are interested in learning, in this case, how to use Twitter as a tool, then we make sure to offer it to them.  I feel very fortunate to work with a lot of great people in this profession at this school.  It’s not hard to find an “expert” to lead the way on a particular topic.  Those interested step up and make it happen.

What are some of the effects of the chat on your staff?
  • Matt: As a result of today, people left excited–a number of them stayed and asked questions based on the tweets they read.  I imagine by next week a few new ideas will have been tried in classrooms because of the chat today.  Martin went 1:1 in 2012 and with that came a number of changes including a new reading curriculum, new technology of course, but also a new approach to PD and teacher support.  I was the assistant principal that year and became the principal the following year (2013-2014).  I see my primary role as an administrator at Martin, to one of support for our teachers so they can do what they do best which is to positively impact our students.
  • Laura: Since the chat, I have noticed several of the participants using Twitter to connect with colleagues from other schools in our district as well as teachers from other places. I’m excited to see what the future of #martin158 brings to our professional learning!
What have been some challenges of PD Twitter chats?  
  • Matt: We haven’t encountered any thus far that have been problematic.  We have a very passionate staff that want to do what’s best for their students and utilize new resources to do so.  What is comfortable for some right now is using resources and relationships on twitter to grow their practice of teaching.
What advice would you have for other school administrators and teachers to get their schools started on PD Twitter chats?
  • Matt: As with anything else in education the first question should always be student focused… what do we want our students to learn?  And then follow that up with, what will we do when they do/don’t learn it?  For us, Twitter is just another tool or resource to help us design plans and lessons in an attempt to help our students learn.  For other administrators I would simply say that if there is a desire to connect to other professionals, be inspired by other ideas, and connect to other people doing great things, then give it a try.  A collaborative culture is present in every highly functioning school.  Twitter allows you to take that one step further and collaborate with educators all over the world.

Thank you so much Matt and Laura!

Featured Image: The New School

3 Worthwhile Twitter Chats for Teachers

Looking for some lively discussion among passionate educators?  Or professional development that applies to your personal goals?  Or some inspiration for one of your current classroom challenges?  Or even just to broaden your PLN?  Then join in on one or all of these favorite Twitter Chats!


 

A Few Handy TwitterChat tips:

  • Introduce yourself when you join in.
  • Use the chat hashtag in every comment you make so others in the discussion can see it!
  • Download a platform like TweetDeck to more easily see all the incoming Tweets (they come fast during a lively discussion).
  • Questions are listed by the moderator as Q1, Q2, etc.  Start your tweets with A1, A2, etc. to correspond with the question at hand, and try to stay on topic!  If you get inspired to begin an offshoot discussion, you can always DM (direct message) an individual!
  • For more support to get started, check out or posts on Twitter in the classroom and PLN’s for beginners.
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Giuseppe Milo
#1: #PYPchat
  • What: PYP stands for the Primary Years Programme for the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, but you don’t have to be a PYP teacher to join in!  We’re all about inquiry, passionate learning, and honest reflection.
  • When: Every other Thursday at 7 pm ET
  • Info & Archives: http://pypchat.wikispaces.com/
  • Sample Questions discussed:
#2: #5thchat
  • What: 5th grade teachers gather to discuss a variety of educational topics, which are voted on every Friday through Sunday.
  • When: Every Tuesday at 8 pm ET
  • Info & Archives: https://5thchat.wikispaces.com/
  • Sample questions discussed:

#3: #IRAchat
  • What: The International Reading Association (@IRAToday) moderates this chat.  Anyone interested in discussing ways to promote literacy is welcome!
  • When: Second Thursday every month at 8 pm ET
  • Archives: https://storify.com/search?q=%23IRAchat
  • Sample questions discussed:

 Others We Haven’t Tried Yet that Also Look Promising:
  • #edtechchat: Mondays at 8 pm ET
  • #geniushour: 1st Thursday of each month at 9 pm ET

Photo Credit:

Praising Students from Kindergarten to 12th Grade

“Rosa has lined up so respectfully for recess.”  “Wow, Ethan is managing his time so well by checking the instructions.” “Check out how Candice has taken the time to carefully revise her piece before publishing.”  Here are 13 reasons–one per grade–to make positive praise one of your most valuable teaching tools.


Kindergarten: Motivate students by attaching their names to something positive.

Don’t we all hope for a little validation for our hard work?  School is a full-time job for students, too, and even your kindergarteners value recognition for their efforts.  “I see Kate waiting her turn to get a drink at the fountain,” goes a long way for a five year-old working on patience.

1st Grade: Highlight those who make appropriate choices.

This is not to be confused with grooming a flock of “teacher’s pets,” especially since that usually involves recognizing a select few.  Teachers should make it a priority to frequently catch all their first graders making good choices.  “I notice David found a great place to read his book,” conveys to the rest of the class what you value.

Helpful starting tip: use a blank class list to actually tally your positive feedback.  Not only will this help you develop awareness of how frequently you praise certain students, it will also help you notice how frequently you issue praise in general.

2nd Grade: Eradicate the common habit of focusing on those making inappropriate choices.

Since mischievous 2nd graders tend to stand out, this is much more difficult than it sounds. Next time you notice an off-task student, instead of going straight for direct reprimands, try praising a student within his or her proximity who is following instructions.  “I appreciate how respectfully John is raising his hand to share his ideas” gives effective feedback both to John and to a classmate who has shouted out, while placing the positive attention on the student making better choices.

Note: We absolutely believe that constructive criticism has its place; however, we contend it should be a secondary strategy–not your primary one.

3rd Grade: Teach students about the balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Perhaps you have set up some kind of extrinsic motivation system in your classroom, such as earning classroom “money” for positive behavior.  Especially when used intermittently, this can be a valuable classroom tool.  However, imagine a statement such as, “I’m impressed that Johnny didn’t even need to earn a bonus to push in his chair.  He has become a responsible enough 3rd grader that he knows how to take care of our classroom without any extra reward.”  There is clear potential there for shaping a student’s desire for self-development, rather than always depending on tangible rewards.

4th Grade: Reinforce your instructions.

It’s exhausting to repeat yourself to inattentive students. Instead, picture this scenario.  As you discuss with your 4th graders the procedure for your latest science inquiry experiment, you jot each step on the whiteboard.  Then, as soon as students begin, flood the transition with simple, out-loud observations of those double-checking those procedures, such as “I see Kalli quickly gathering her supplies as we discussed for step 1,” or “Paul is double-checking step 3 on the board before he proceeds.”

The point: Proper instructions get reinforced, you don’t feel like a nag, and students who follow instructions get some recognition.  Win-win-win.

5th Grade: Reinforce your expectations.

As your fifth graders have generally become quite familiar with one another through their primary years, they often become quite social–which adds both liveliness and challenges to your classroom management approach.  Proactively reinforcing the appropriate times and contexts for socializing may keep the school year running more smoothly.  Some examples of this kind of feedback: “I see Marta respectfully listening to her group member, waiting to contribute her ideas until it’s her turn” or “Joseph wisely chose not to stand by his best buddies in line so he won’t be tempted to chat as we walk down the halls to lunch.”

Chris Suderman
Chris Suderman
6th Grade: Encourage specific growth.

Each year, my feedback tends to center around one idea or theme.  Some have included:

  • Make life easier for others.
  • Say no to distractions. (Inspired by Steve Jobs quote.)
  • You may solve your problems in ways that aren’t problematic for yourself or others.

These themes arose from the opportunities for growth I observed in each class collectively, and I voiced them every single day through my specific positive praise.  “Nancy made Jim’s life easier by stacking his chair when she saw he was busy at the end of the day.” “Robert is saying no to distractions by putting away his pencil during instructions.”  “Cindy solved her problem of losing her permission slip by making a new one for her parents to sign.”  My fifth graders became so familiar with it that they started using similar language in their own conversations.  Daily illustrating what it looked, felt, and sounded like through positive praise had a much more lasting impact than an individual lesson might have had.

7th Grade: Give reminders to off-task students without confrontation.

By 7th grade, most students “catch on,” often manifested by eye-rolling.  A strategy that involves reminding students of appropriate behavior without direct confrontation may be the very tool you need that will preempt power struggles throughout the year.

8th Grade: Build rapport with students.

By 8th grade, overt teacher praise is often officially “uncool.” Depending on the student, you may actually push away certain students if they feel overly recognized.  But as you gear your positive praise toward a more one-on-one level, it can still have a powerful role in building your relationships with students as they sense you respect them as mature young adults.  For instance, you may pull aside a student for this kind of feedback: “I could tell you dedicated some thoughtful reflection in your essay; I have other students that don’t yet understand what that kind of serious reflecting looks like, so I was wondering if you’d mind my sharing it with the class?  I can keep your name anonymous if you would prefer.”

9th Grade: Align your practices with research.

At Purdue University, the Department of Child Development and Family Studies discussed John Gottman’s positive to negative feedback ratio.  According to his research, marriage relationships thrive when that ratio is balanced at 5:1.¹  This research is reinforced in the classroom by numerous additional studies which find that “the use of contingent, behavior-specific praise has been linked to positive student outcomes, including increased student academic engagement and decreased disruptive behavior.”²  We simply must have a greater number of positive interactions with our students than negative.

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www.audio-luci-store.it via Flickr
10th Grade: Let the modeling of quality thinking and choices come from students’ peers.

21st Century learning and teaching is defined by a technology-facilitated shift: from teachers as sources of knowledge, to guides who coach students to assess and evaluate the knowledge now at all our fingertips.  Embrace this shift by allowing student peers’ work to be the model wherever possible.  Supporting the philosophy that quality ideas can come from anyone–instead of just one wisened individual–is both empowering and realistic in this modern age of collaboration.  For example: “Check out how Lucas is approaching this algorithm.  How can that strategy be helpful for some individuals?”

11th Grade: Encourage students to make better use of their resources.

Let’s say you put some dictionaries in your classroom (or the link to dictionary.com on your class blog homepage), hoping that will help eradicate spelling errors.  Maybe you even give your students a mini-lesson on how to look up words in the dictionary for spelling aid.  However, none of your best efforts will encourage students to utilize that resource as well as praising a student who does so.

12th Grade: Cultivate a growth mindset.

The way we praise students has a greater impact on their development than we may realize.  A motivation researcher at Stanford, Carol Dweck, has addressed the terms, fixed mindset and growth mindset.³  Students who receive praise that focuses on innate ability (“You got 100%–you’re so smart at math!”) develop a fixed mindset–instilling perfectionism, fear of failure, and belief that ability is static.  When the praise centers around effort (“You got 100%–you must have worked so hard!”), students develop a growth mindset–leading to courage, perseverance, and belief that ability is malleable.  See an inspiring video on this subject by Khan Academy below.

Sources:
  1. Poulson, Shruti S. (March 2008). A Fine Balance: The Magic Ratio to a Healthy Relationship. Purdue Extension, CFS-744-W. Retrieved from https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/CFS/CFS-744-W.pdf.
  2. Rodriguez, Billie J. and Sprick, Randy. Why a Positive Approach to Behavior? A Research Summary. Randy Sprick’s Safe and Civil Schools. Retrieved from http://www.safeandcivilschools.com/research/references/positive-approach-to-behavior.pdf.
  3. Dweck, Carol S. (January 2010). Mind-Sets and Equitable Education. Principal Leadership. Retrieved from  https://www.nassp.org/portals/0/content/61209.pdf.
Photo Credit:

5 Back-to-School Posters for Any Classroom

School is back into full-swing for many schools by now.  Amid back-to-school supplies, carefully-designed units, and seating charts, remember to maintain a vision of those things that are most important.  Here are a few of our favorite reminders.


#1: Brene Brown’s Leadership Manifesto

Via www.BreneBrown.com
Via www.BreneBrown.com

(and while you’re at it, perhaps her “Engaged Feedback Checklist,” too.  Both of these come from her latest book, Daring Greatly, which is definitely a worthwhile read for any educator!)

#2:  Bill Ferriter’s essential technology reminder

16483813778_c226204503_o
Via William Ferriter’s flickr stream

#3: Ann Lander’s wisdom on child autonomy

via Ann Landers
via (@4collegeparents)

#4: Dr. Haim Ginott’s realization on a teacher’s daily influence

Background image by Case Wade
Background image by Case Wade

#5: And this.

printers smell fear
Via @WeAreTeachers

Or maybe just a poster that says, “Serenity now!”  Have a great 2014-2015 year!

Featured Image: (only visible on mobile devices with current layout) Nick Amoscato

Keeping a Window Open: 10 Tips to Keep Up with Education during (Extended) Parental Leave

If you’re pausing your teaching career during parental leave for a few years, we have some ideas to help you keep up with the education world!


#1: Watch for license renewal credits opportunities

When the time comes for you to resume your teaching career, you don’t want to be stuck with retroactively tracking down hours and paperwork!  Develop a professional learning plan now, combing your state or country requirements.  Contact your prior administration for documentation of any accumulated credits during your employment.

#2: Volunteer at your last school

Strap on that Baby Bjorn or occasionally drop off kids with a babysitter to maintain educational ties in your community.  Gauge what’s realistic for your circumstances, though, whether it’s simply to read with students now and then, or to facilitate an extracurricular activity, such as a TED-Ed Club

#3: Volunteer online

Sign up to tutor online! Become a Granny in Sugata Mitra’s “School in the Cloud.”  You can even combine #2 & #3 via interactive platforms like Skype.  For instance, when I was housebound during our school’s annual PYP Exhibition process, I volunteered to mentor a few student groups through weekly Skype “meetings” instead.  The students loved sharing their progress on the webcam, and I loved being involved despite my situation.

#4: Set up a Twitter account!! (and otherwise build/maintain your PLN)

This is probably the best way to keep current: the latest practices, digital tools, and issues are thoroughly shared and discussed on Twitter.  Building your PLN of other passionate teachers around the globe further enhances the professional development potential.  For further convincing, check out Krissy Venosdale’s article, “I’m Not Going to Convince You That You Need a PLN.”

#5: Join webinars & e-courses

Classroom 2.0 LIVE hosts free online shows.  PLP Network offers purchased E-courses (with options for graduate credit, too). And once you’ve established #4, Twitter Chats can be especially helpful–for me, one solid chat usually ends with with about 37 new open tabs of resources.

#6: Organize your old resources

Was packing your classroom materials a whirlwind of items flying into unlabeled boxes?  Then you need to fire up your scanner and read our post on getting organized.  ASAP.  Your sanity will thank you later when you resume teaching.

#7: Organize your new resources

After getting inspired by the 37+ tabs of resources discovered during a Tweet Chat, make sure you can find them again!  Establish a bookmarking system that works for you, be it a Delicious account, or several categorized folders to sort your bookmarks on your browser (Chrome is a great option since it saves your bookmarks across your devices if you’re logged into your Google account).

#8: Develop a Skill

Brush up your old high school Spanish using the free Duolingo app.  Fine-tune your piano playing.  Explore PhotoShop or Prezi.  Anything that you enjoy will enhance your classroom, even if it’s not directly related to your content–after all, your future students need models of adults pursuing passions!

#9: Revamp Your Class Blog!

Browse your favorite class blogs, and then find ways to incorporate your favorite user-friendly features on your own blog!

#10: Re-evaluate your WHY as a Teacher!

Reflect on your previous practices and honestly assess what can be improved or tossed altogether.  Consider how you can return to the educational work-force with an even deeper commitment to authentic learning (on that subject, be sure to check out our tips on becoming a 21st Century teacher)!

And of course, remember to make the most of this precious and swiftly passing time with your little one(s)!

Author
Credit: Mary Wade

Featured Image: Death to the Stock