I went to a Florida Council Teachers of English conference, having no idea what to expect other than a keynote speech from Kylene Beers, author of When Kids Can’t Read. A few workshops later, after learning how to incorporate reader-writer journals from Linda Reif (Seeking Diversity), how to teach creative writing using Taco Bell sauce packets, and how to use picture books to teach literature circles, I was excited about teaching in the upcoming year. That excitement is one of the most powerful benefits of the conversation. (Plus, the experience gave me stuff to put in my naked, first-year teacher classroom!)
Another great place to look is Scholastic.com. They have ideas, resources and articles for all content areas and grade levels. I found really cool ice-breakers and discussion starters here. They also have a lot of great classroom tools, such as timers, their Book Wizard which helps students select books within their lexiles and interests and Daily Starters, for daily bellwork or warm ups. They also have an awesome Back to School section! The time is near!
One more thing that I really like on the Scholastic site is that they have an area where current teachers post featured articles. The last one I read was on simple ways to incorporate technology into the classroom and why it’s so important. These are great because the teachers are still in the classroom, so they share how their lesson or idea went and reflect on any changes they might make.
Get involved at your school or on a district level. Here's where you can really dive into the deep end! The professional conversation is going to be different at every school, so sometimes, you have to be the one to find it or even start it. For example, at my school this past year, we had a book study. The books were paid for with Title One money and we got paid for meeting once a week to discuss the readings and how it applied to our school and our student population. If you don’t have something like this at your school, get it started! Talk to your principal, request funds from your parent organization or School Advisory Committee. Sometimes the money is there, but you just have to find it. Sometimes, districts will offer a book study which is a great way to meet teachers from other schools and find out what challenges they are facing and what is working for them. That’s where the conversation provides you with practical, tried-and-tested advice.
If a book study is not your cup of tea, you can stay in the professional conversation asking around to see where you can help at the district level. There, your finger can be on the pulse of the conversation. What does your district need? Teachers to help write the new exams? Curriculum review? Textbook adoption? This step not only helps you stay in the conversation, but it can help with inservice points for certification renewals and on annual evaluations. In my district, we have an entire domain dedicated to knowing the research, implementing it into the classroom, and how we stay in the professional conversation.