Stay Sharp This Summer with Free PD Resources

A MiddleWeb Blog

Sharpening Season

As a kid, I remember my dad referring to these warmer, summer months as ‘sharpening season.’ He would pull out our family’s ancient but well-maintained lawn mower, remove the blade, and use an enormous file to grind and smooth it.

The blade’s edge – blunted and dulled from previous mowing months – was whetted, honed, and sharpened until it was restored…ready to tackle the challenges in the months to follow.

For educators, summer serves as a similar ‘sharpening season’ of sorts. As much as we love teaching, the end of the school year presents valuable time and opportunity to reflect, rejuvenate, retool, and ‘sharpen’ our skills through exploration, learning, and professional development.

Luckily there is no shortage of quality, free learning resources for teachers.

Relax and Read

Few things are more enjoyable than a book you just can’t seem to put down…especially one that provides educational insight and inspiration. With so many books on teaching and learning, however, it can be hard to decide which one is worth your time.

BookAuthority is my go-to site for staying up-to-date on the best teaching and learning book titles. It uses data-based technology to identify, rank, and rate the best books using public mentions, recommendations, ratings, popularity, and sales history.

Overall rankings are calculated purely based on data ensuring that only the very best books are featured. Currently, the list for the best printed books for teachers this year can be found here with the best titles available on Kindle listed here.

Last year, Jennifer Gonzalez put together a good-sized compilation of book titles for teachers to study individually or with other educators.

For those of us who like suggestions from Amazon, it’s a cinch to stay current on the teaching top-sellers in the category of Education and Teaching by clicking here.

And don’t forget MiddleWeb’s book review program! You can choose a new or recent title from their current list. They’ll mail it to you (and even pay the postage). You can set your own deadline for returning a review, keep the book, and see your writing shared here on the site and in MiddleWeb SmartBrief.

Leisure, Listening, and Learning

Podcasts are another free, powerful tool for introducing and advising teachers on the use of evidence-based practices in the classroom (Kennedy et al., 2018). Think of them as learning opportunities in the form of lectures or radio shows that you can kick back, relax, pop in some earbuds, and listen to.  Podcasts can be accessed online or downloaded through a variety of tools like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and iHeartRadio.

When it comes to summer PD, some podcasts I would suggest exploring include:

The Ten-Minute Teacher Podcast that offers five episodes a week, each focusing on different themes in education (Motivational Mondays, EdTech Tool Tuesdays, Wonderful Classroom Wednesdays, Thought Leader Thursdays, and Five Idea Fridays).

The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast is a wonderful resource for learning about teaching strategies, classroom management, education reform, educational technology, and much more. The show’s producer regularly includes interviews with educators, students, administrators, and parents about the psychological and social dynamics of school, trade secrets, and teaching/learning tips.

The TeachThought Podcast explores a variety of topics related to teaching such as project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, personalized learning experiences, modern knowledge demands, emerging technologies, as well as shifts relevant to teaching in the 21st century. 

Talks with Teachers puts together the stories and inspiration behind America’s great literacy educators. Each episode features a master ELA/Literacy/English teacher who shares what works, what doesn’t, and wisdom gained from their years of classroom experience. Intended to boost morale and help teachers find joy and purpose, Talks with Teachers is a great K-12 resource.

The MindShift Podcast investigates innovations and issues that are shaping how kids learn. Recently, topics have included surprising tactics to deal with classroom disruptions; using podcasts to help kids develop reading skills, the consequences of overparenting, and the use of interdisciplinary learning to engage students on all spots along the traditional achievement spectrum. 

TED’s Education Podcast is built on the ideas of some of the world’s greatest educators, researchers, and community leaders about what future schools could/should look like, how brains learn, and how to help students become successful.

ASCD is a great resource for listening in on engaging conversations between established and emerging education leaders, authors, experts, and practitioners on a variety of topics impacting schools.

One unique podcast that was shared with me is the #EdChat Podcast. Once a week Tom Whitby, Nancy Blair, and members of the EdChat team discuss and shed light on educational topics that are trending on social media.

Larry Ferlazzo’s BAM! radio podcasts also feature informative educator chats. Larry usually has 2-3 guests who discuss topics they’ve recently written about at his Education Week blog Classroom Q&A. These are quick PD listens – about 10 minutes each.

Finally, John Spencer’s The Creative Classroom share tools, strategies, and stories to help teachers boost creativity and innovation in their classrooms. I particularly like that John doesn’t mind sharing mistakes that he makes along his journey to improve his craft.

Wisdom Through Webinars

A webinar is a short Web-based seminar, or information sharing session that teachers can either participate in in real time…or simply view as an archived video later on. Webinars allow teachers to share expertise, resources, ideas, and questions on educational topics. Below are a handful of my favorite webinar-caches for gleaning wisdom.

The ASCD Webinar Archive is a treasure trove of teaching/learning insight from experts in the field.  There are free webinars on everything from Tackling Attendance Challenges to The Neuroscience of Learning.

Education Week is another great source for upcoming and past webinars on social emotional learning, promoting positive behavior, instructional technology, and a variety of other topics. With the exception of a few webinars accessible only to premium, or paid members, every webinar can be viewed for free.

Educators interested in topics, issues, and policy challenges being faced by schools around the nation should check out the National Education Association Webinars. Each webinar includes downloadable resources files and a generic completion certificate.

NNSTOY’s YouTube channel offers several free video PD resources and recordings on how to create lessons, culture, and instructional practices that will lead to improved student performance. They also have a growing list of microbursts, or short-and-sweet webinars on Teacher Leadership.

Though not technically webinars, Edutopia offers several insightful videos/resources to help educators develop teacher leadership and further their capacity to serve students. The American Federation of Teachers also offers free PD resources, including their popular Share My Lesson platform.

Online Professional Learning Communities

Collaborative professional development often proves much more powerful than simply going it alone (Bates, Phalen, & Moran, 2016). Finding an online professional development community over the summer is another great way to engage with groups of teachers in discussion, post and view comments/suggestions, and glean ideas/resources.

EdWeb is a group of teachers, librarians, and administrators working to share innovative and effective ideas to improve teacher practice, as well as student learning and preparation for college, careers, and life. They look not only to provide PD webinars for those interested, but also to facilitate online PLC communities. These communities can request and create webinar sessions, learn from each other, trade ideas and strategies, and workshop new ideas.

AllThingsPLC is an easy-to-navigate, collaborative, objective resource for educators and administrators seeking to enhance student achievement. It provides a space for educators to ask questions, share knowledge, and get expert insight into the issues educators face each day.

The TeachingChannel is an extremely practical resource. Free membership gets you access to hundreds of videos that outline emerging classroom strategies. The site also has a phenomenal blog, where educators in the field share their ideas and reflections on practice, and an online “Q & A” community. The site does a great job of creating video-based PD sessions that get a camera into the classroom, allowing you to watch strategies in action with real students and real educators.

TeachersFirst is an online community for teachers by teachers. There are thousands of lessons, units, and reviewed web resources for K-12 classroom teachers designed to enrich teaching and learning for both teachers and their students.

In a recent MiddleWeb post, Susan Curtis, suggested using Twitter to find individual teachers and hashtag groups. Doing so allows educators to grow their teacher network, glean/share ideas, and follow topics of interest. To get started, take a look at this introduction to ‘Twitter PD’ from TeachThought.

There Is No Hiatus from Learning

Education continues to grow more complex and rigorous. With each passing year, teachers are expected to develop broader, more specialized knowledge of their discipline, engage students, foster cognitive and noncognitive skills in the classroom, employ digital technologies, and help individual students from different backgrounds attain academic success (Stewart, 2018).

All professionals – especially educators – deserve a bit of rest and respite every now and then. Summer break may equate to a hiatus from the classroom, but that doesn’t need to mean a break from learning, growing, and developing as teachers. Summer time is sharpening season.


Bates, M. S., Phalen, L., & Moran, C. (2016). Online Professional Development: A Primer. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(5), 70–73.

Kennedy, M. J., Rodgers, W. J., Romig, J. E., Mathews, H. M., & Peeples, K. N. (2018). Introducing the Content Acquisition Podcast Professional Development process: Supporting vocabulary instruction for inclusive middle school science teachers. Teacher Education and Special Education, 41(2), 140-157.

Stewart, V. (2018). How Teachers AROUND THE WORLD Learn: From Singapore to Shanghai and beyond, countries are focusing on embedding teacher-led professional learning in their systems. Educational Leadership, 76(3), 28.

Curtis Chandler

Dr. Curtis Chandler (@CurtisChandler6) is an education professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg. Curtis has been a Kansas Teacher of the Year and a KS regional instructional tech coach. “I am a middle school teacher through and through,” he says. He enjoys spending time with his wife and his favorite students – his four sons. His two blogs for MiddleWeb include Class Apps (insightful articles about blending tech and teaching strategies) here, and New Teacher Tips, a blog dedicated to preservice and beginning teachers, here.

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