Happy Teacher Series: Professional Growth

The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set!
Part of being a teacher is recognizing the need for continual growth. Sometimes this growth comes from an intense professional development session. Other times it comes from a mistake you have made and learned from. Alternately growth can come from a student blowing your mind with something they say or do. Ultimately though, all growth helps us, as teachers, to stay on the edge of our seats and on our toes all the time.

Why Do Happy Teachers Take Professional Development Seriously?

Growth is a huge goal for teachers. We want to see growth in our students, our schools, our communities, and ourselves. A vital part of continued growth is professional development. The desire to continually learn what the new and best practices are in our profession keeps us fresh and ready to greet our students on a daily basis. Some teaching and learning strategies pass the test of time, but others don't, and it is important that we know the difference. 

An educational degree is not the end all and be all of teaching, but instead teachers should continue to learn throughout their career. Our classrooms are fluid with changing needs and expectations each and every year. Without professional development there is no way that we could keep up. In order to meet the needs of each and every student that walks through our door we have to continue to grow along with them. 

Teachers who love professional development are also great models for their students. When you show them that you are excited to learn and try new things they are more excited about their learning. I always made it a point to share with my students what I learned whenever I went to professional development, especially if I missed a day with them, and they got excited for me. 

How Happy Teachers Continue to Learn

There are SO many options out there for professional growth from online trainings to after school events to week long conferences with the best of the best. While we don't always get to decide exactly what kind of professional development sessions we attend, we can certainly lean in a specific direction. 

Outside of "official" professional development there are a number of ways that teachers can continue to grow. 
    The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set!
  • Podcasts-There are some truly amazing podcasts out there for teachers with everything from best practice to encouraging teachers. Two of my favorites are Cult of Pedagogy and Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers. I love to download an episode to my phone and listen to it during a commute. Sometimes I will listen to the same episode multiple times and really let it sink in. I also have my favorites that I go back to when I know I need to hear that message again. 
  • Professional books-There are a million and one professional books when it comes to teaching and they vary in subject matter greatly. Books are a great way to experience growth personally, because you can move at your own pace. Alternately you can get your team or a group of colleagues together and do a book study. This always worked well for me, because I needed that accountability.
    Some of the best professional books I have read lately:
    (affiliate links)
    The Strategic Teacher
    Never Work Harder Than Your Students
    Teach Like a Pirate
    For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood
  • Read educational news-There are a ton of very informative websites out there that will keep you in the know when it comes to educational policy, best practice, and developments in the field. By spending a few minutes every week reading articles you can really show what you know to your colleagues.
  • TED Talks-Not all TED Talks relate directly to education, but I am willing to bet that you can find a connection. Additionally there are a vast number that ARE directly about education. I always feel inspired and ready to go after listening to a TED Talk. 
  • Shadow a colleague-One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is watch other teachers teach. We as a group are an inspirational bunch, and while we share a lot, we also have very different ideas and styles. By observing one another teaching from time to time we are able to take back the best of what we see to our own classrooms, while potentially offering some constructive feedback to who we observed. 
  • Teaching blogs-I am making the assumption that since you are here you know the power of teaching blogs, but let me just say teacher-bloggers are an inspiration to me! 
  • Hold your own training-If you have something that you are passionate and knowledgable about ask your admin if you can present to your campus. Odds are they will bend over backwards to make it happen! At our campus we have 1/2 hour optional trainings on Mondays that were presented by teachers. We called this time Grow Your Garden and looked at it as a way to learn a little bit more about new topics in a "bite-sized" format. 

How to Get the Most Out of Professional Development

First of all, pursue your passions. When you get the opportunity to choose a professional development course really take advantage of your options. Read descriptions carefully and choose something that you know will positively affect you and your students immediately. This makes it easy to get excited and will make you a more engaged participant. 

The why of professional development and how it can make you a happier teacher! Included: a list of information ways to continue to grow your teacher skill set! Actively listen. Teachers are known for being the absolute worst group of people to present to. We are noisy, trying to multi-task, and often carrying on side conversations. Break the mold! Walk right on up to the front of the room and grab yourself a prime seat. Make sure that you have a way of taking notes to help you remember all the awesome things you are going to learn. Set yourself up for success!

Before you leave the training take a moment to think big picture. Personally I like to set a goal for myself that is kind of lofty, and then some mini-goals that will help me to achieve the larger goal. For example, my lofty goal might be to integrate 10 cooperative learning strategies by the end of the school year. My mini-goals could be to introduce and master one new strategy a week. This keeps me accountable for my learning, but is in bite sized pieces that are easy to accomplish. Sometimes I sweeten the pot even a little bit more with a little reward to myself. I am currently off soda, but I might promise myself one piece of candy each time I accomplish a mini-goal and a Dr. Pepper when the lofty goal is complete. You better believe I am going to work for that sweet nectar straight from heaven! I also share my goals with my students, because they will keep me accountable for sure! 

Looking for more ways to be a happier teacher? Check out 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do.

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End of the Year Teaching Resources

 End of year activity ideas that are low on prep and high on student engagement. These activities will keep your students involved in their classroom community until the final bell!
End of year is coming and the goose is getting fat... wrong song, wrong time of year? I am sorry but I can't help but be over the moon that the end of the school year is almost here. Whether you get out at the end of May or June the end it nigh! I just wanted to shout that one more time. 

Every year about this time we start getting antsy, and oh yeah, our students do too. It is tempting to fill the rest of the year with Bill Nye videos, games, and extra long recesses. I would like to encourage you to do more though.

More? More you ask of me? I know that you are worn out, but why not take the time to really enjoy your students this time of year and allow them to bond with one another before the summer break? 

With these activities students can share their learning and excitement with one another all while staying engaged up until the very last moment of the very last day. 

Spider Story

Students sit in a circle and are given a ball of yarn. Beginning with the student who holds the yarn they say one sentence of a story then pass the yarn. The next student adds a sentence and the process continues until you run out of yarn or the story is complete. 

You could easily modify this activity by changing it up a bit. Instead of telling a story students could talk about their favorite memory from the school year, name a fact they learned this year, or ask a question that they have been wondering. 

End of year activity ideas that are low on prep and high on student engagement. These activities will keep your students involved in their classroom community until the final bell!Compliment Capes

This activity is a great way to increase student self esteem at the end of the year. Each student is given a piece of regular white printer paper that is taped to their back. Students all stand up with a marker each and travel around the room writing positive messages to their classmates on their "capes."

This is an awesome activity to complete right before standardized testing or in the afternoons following the big test when students are drained and feeling a bit eh. 

Mum Ball

If you are looking for an activity to grab your students' attention and keep them engaged, but silent Mum Ball is for you! Check out this post from Ari and The Science Penguin for how to play. 


Do you have a classroom full of students who just can't get enough reading time? Then a read-a-thon is for you! Have your students choose a book and a spot and read their little hearts out! 

I encourage students to read together if they would like, or on their own, or in small groups. We pause throughout the read-a-thon for dramatic read alouds, students to share their discoveries, and for stretch breaks. My students always loved this precious time. 

Cooperative Learning Activities

If you have read any posts here before, you could have probably guessed that this one was coming. I am a cooperative learning strategy nut, and what better time to really beef up your cooperative learning game than when students' energy is waning at the end of the year. 

All strategies would be great for the end of the year, but to make your life SUPER easy I have this set of 11 pre-made activities that are ready to print and go with minimal prep from you, and really you don't have to do anything but make copies and cut. (Let's be honest, sometime I just have my students do the cutting.)

This awesome pack is chock full of activities that you can use multiple times to keep students engaged in the afternoons of testing days as well as up to the final bell on the final day of school. Check it out!  With more than 100 pages of activities, templates, and directions your students are sure to feel the classroom community love!

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Happy Teacher Series: How to Encourage Others

Do you hate on your fellow teachers or are you an encourager? Try these 8 ideas for encouraging others.
Teaching is tough, and I don't know why so many teachers make it harder on one another by hating on each other. I mean seriously, why do we talk about one another and pick at each other's flaws when we could be one another's biggest cheerleaders?

I am not completely blameless here. I too have fallen into the trap of talking about others and tearing them down when I knew the whole while that I should be building them up. This is what we try to instill in our students, so why is it so hard for us to do. I have a few theories on this, but am no expert.

The truth is, happy teachers encourage those that are around them, because a happy person wants others to be happy too. Instead of breaking one another down and placing every action under the microscope why don't we change our mindset and work to encourage one another. We can encourage each other to do better and be better.

How Happy Teachers Encourage Others

    Do you hate on your fellow teachers or are you an encourager? Try these 8 ideas for encouraging others.
  1. Actively listen to what they have to say. So often we get caught up in what we are doing and forget that others have things going on too. Take the time to ask a coworker how they are doing and really listen to the answer and respond thoughtfully.
  2. Smile! It is amazing how just getting a smile from across the hallway can lift you up. 
  3. Write a positive note. Handwritten notes have kind of gone the way of the dodo bird, so they are that much more special when received. Personally, I have saved many quick notes that were just jotted down on a sticky because they said what I needed to hear at that moment in time. 
  4. Compliment them. Ideally the comment would be something deep, but if you are struggling a compliment on someone's appearance is always safe. 
  5. Recognize accomplishments. No matter how big or how small everyone deserves to have their achievements celebrated. There is nothing worse than feeling the high of success and no one else noticing. It doesn't take much to recognize someone's accomplishments. A simple high five, pat on the back, or general woohoo will get the job done!
  6. Say thank you. Let your coworkers know that you value them and their efforts. It goes a long way. 
  7. Value their time. One of the easiest ways to encourage someone and let them know that they are valued is to tell them that you appreciate them spending their time on a task and respect that they have other things they could be doing. We are so busy as teachers when someone gives up their time to help with a task they deserve to be recognized. 
  8. Recognize people's strengths and put them in appropriate leadership roles. Instead of just assigning roles at random allow teachers to take on leadership roles that interest them. This will undoubtably encourage their participation. 
I know that this list is just the beginning of how you can encourage others, and teachers are the absolute best at coming up with creative ways to celebrate others! What other ideas do you have for encouraging others on your campus?

For more information on working towards being a happy teacher check out 11 Things Happy Teachers Don't Do

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