Summer professional development for language teachers

summer professional development for language teachers

Summer professional development for language teachers.

Welcome to the 5-Week Linguist Show. I wanted to dedicate this episode to my language teacher, colleagues. And I wanted to tell you how very much I admire you. I’m astounded by teachers. I think teachers are amazing. And obviously I’m biased. I’m one of you, but I wanted to honor language teachers because I know how hard you work. I know there’s very little time that we get to have as downtime. We’re constantly working to give our kids input in a way that they can understand to make it comprehensible and to make this journey of learning a language enjoyable and pleasurable, even if you’re not naturally gravitating towards it. And it can be really hard work. You got to deal with the rough bits. You’ve got to deal with people’s insecurities of not being successful at something right away and how difficult that can be on people.

And I wanted to share with you specifically some ways that I’ve spent my five weeks over the summer as a teacher and why, and I hope that you get some takeaways from this that are really useful for you. So my very first summer tip is to fill your cup. I can’t tell you how important I think that is. As I said, I think teachers are amazing. And in my many years, it was the early nineties when I started teaching. And I never imagined that I’d still be doing it now. And it’s been a journey. It’s one foot in front of the other. It’s a few things improving every year. And the summers have been really instrumental to that. When I first started teaching, I’ve done a master’s during the summer. I worked during the summer things that I felt that I had to do, other commitments.

Summer professional development for language teachers: being a student.

And I still looked forward to the first summer that I didn’t have to do either of those things. And that was a great fill my cup summer. I read for pleasure for weeks. And then I actually went to Spain and did Spanish language study, and I felt so ready to go back to school. And that was my first real fill your cup summer. And I realized that we oftentimes don’t have choices in what we do during the summer. A lot of times, that was sort of a dream summer that I just described to you, but it’s not my typical summer, not by a long shot, but whatever it means to fill your cup, I think you need to do it.

Summer professional development for language teachers: fill your cup.

And I think people often think teachers have the summer off and we really don’t, oftentimes we’re considered unemployed or we don’t earn enough money so we need to go do another job. It’s not free time. It’s actually getting eight hours of sleep. Teachers during the school year, we spend so much time in meetings, reading emails and as language teachers, we’re constantly trying to make this thing that’s really difficult in many ways, for people really seamless and fun and accessible and easy, but challenging and rigorous at the same time. Right? Really bringing people from not speaking a language to being able to communicate with people all over the world. And there’s no really easy way to do it in the school environment. We got to just every day do comprehensible input in the target language and give them opportunities to communicate and make our room a safe place to make errors and mistakes.

So filling your cup, whatever that looks like to you, doing fun things, having your dream summer, which probably doesn’t happen for many of us every time. And it looks different for all of us. I told you about my dream summer, my first summer that I didn’t have to work. And I was able to go study languages to improve my language skills. And I wasn’t doing it for credit. I was doing it for fun. So my second tip in summertime is apart from filling your cup, which I think is the most important one is making your life easier.

There’s so much to do as a teacher. I’ve never really worked at another job. I worked in restaurants and that was the only other sort of regular job that I had that was hard work. And I don’t know what people in other careers really do. I have an idea and it looks very different. And some other jobs have intense periods of work followed by some downtime. Some people have a kind of sort of steady type of work. It’s all so different what we do and it’s really hard to gauge, but teachers are active, I do know that. I’m not sure how consistently active other jobs are. And we spend a lot of time on our own. And one of the things that I like to do during the summers is create materials. So all the ideas in my head, I get out a piece of paper or one of my notebooks, and I just start jotting them down, titles for activities, for role-plays, for quizzes.

Summer professional development for language teachers: planning ahead.

All these things that have been stirring around in my head. And I try to come up with at least 20. And there is a reason for that. I think about what are the things that are hard to learn that I need a kind of structured project or activity to do for my students. And then I take my phone. I used to do something very different. I actually type them out, but now I take my phone because I have a great app that transcribes for me and I turn it on and I talk about them all. And then I have a whole list of great activities. And then I start typing those and making them look like real activities. And I think about how those activities can look for a beginning level, an A level, a novice level and an intermediate, a B-level and how I would adapt them and how these activities can be adapted to different linguistic themes.

And I clean it all up. And I think about possible assessments. And I list them all in a big document. And I can’t tell you how much time this saves during the school year. As a young teacher, I was really privileged to get to spend a day with Harry Wong. And he talked all about the first days of school. And one of the things that he talked about was about good teachers investing 10% of their lives. And I don’t know what I would have done. I thought, “Where would this 10% come from?” And he started talking about people staying late on a Friday night and working and then having a weekend. And then that’s when it occurred to me. There was always a period of time during the summer where I could work from at home with my feet up in my pajamas, on my Mac and make my school year really easy.

So I started to plan out all these different activities that I could easily adapt to different classes to make my life easier. I just didn’t have the time to be creative during the school year. I’m not sure about you. I have very little time. So just getting all those ideas out on paper, and then also jotting out a whole bunch of systems, right? What can I do to make my life easier in this area, for example, and I’ve gotten a little bit better at it every year, how can I freeze more meals? What help can I get to make my life easier?

So that’s number two, make your life easier during the school year. And teachers are amazing and creative. So I think a lot of you are probably doing this anyway, but I wanted to talk about my system. And then thirdly, I wanted to talk about language skills. When we’re teaching languages, I think K through 12, at the end of the day, we don’t have to be native speakers. We don’t have to have the proficiency of a native level speaker, but you know what? It really helps make life easier. And having gone through this journey from being… I’m a non native speaker of Spanish. I’ve taught Spanish for many years and going from that journey through the advanced level, up to the top, my work day has gotten easier and easier and easier because I don’t have to look up words I can really focus on making the input that I give to the kids comprehensible.

Summer professional development for language teachers: work on skills.

And I share this with you not to shame you because I was that non-native Spanish teacher, and I am that non-native Spanish teacher, but I can very confidently communicate at a very high level with native speakers. And I really think it was a worthwhile investment. And I spent a lot of time working on that. And I share this with you because, as you know, we have so many amazing tools that can help us do this really easily through input. And specifically, when I was working on my really high Spanish level, I listened to a lot of audio books. And now it’s available. So easy to listen to on your phone. And I would walk and listen. I would listen to books two and three times, and I really hit my level.

And it was a really nice way to spend my summer. I got exercise every day. I felt productive, and I hit my goals, and I didn’t feel like I was taking extra time out. Realistically, I went for a couple of 45 minute walks a day and listened to my books and I hit my actual proficiency goal. And the journey was really difficult, but it was certainly really worth it. And I did not do this in one summer. This was over several summers and it was well worth the investment. And I highly recommend that you don’t have to wait to go abroad if you want to really accelerate your skills, you have everything you need there. I got an audible subscription and listened to book after book, after book.

And now we have access on Spotify to podcasts and Apple music, it’s amazing. So teachers, I want to honor you and tell you how much I admire you and how grateful I am to be able to see you in all of our online communities and how much I think that you contribute to the profession. And hopefully you’re doing exactly what you want this summer, that you’re filling your cup and you’re making your life easier and doing things that you love. And I look forward to talking to you in the future, have a wonderful summer. Until next time, bye.

Thank you for listening to the 5-Week Linguist Show with Janina Klimas. Join us each week here and visit us at for more resources, for learning and teaching languages.

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