Growing Professionally This Summer & Next Year

By Kasey Short

Professional development is an important aspect of teachers’ professional experience and growth. Learning and trying new things can be refreshing for teachers and provide students with new opportunities in the classroom.

While attending conferences and engaging in formal education programs are valuable avenues, not all educators have equal access to these opportunities due to funding limitations, time constraints, or personal obligations that make traveling for conferences difficult.

However, teachers can pursue professional development related to their interest in their own time with little or no cost, empowering themselves to continue to learn and explore new ideas. This summer, I am reflecting on my own professional journey and considering what avenues for professional development might be enriching for me now and in the next school year.

Here are some things I’m thinking about that might spark your thinking as well, whether you’re in a teaching or administrative role – or like me, in both.


Writing about your teaching experiences can be a powerful tool for reflection and growth. By articulating your ideas and experiences, you not only deepen your understanding of your practice but also contribute to the collective knowledge of the profession. Consider sharing written ideas with colleagues, starting a blog or writing articles for educational publications to share your insights with a wider audience.

I always learn about myself as a teacher when I write because it forces me to closely analyze my own practice. I often find myself thinking of ways to improve in the middle of writing down my ideas. If you are not ready to write to share with others, write for yourself. Keep a journal of new ideas, things that worked well, and things that need improvement. You might begin this summer when you have time to relax and reflect.


Reading books related to education, leadership, psychology, or even fiction about kids the age you teach can provide valuable perspectives and insights. Consider starting a book club with colleagues to discuss and reflect on these readings together, fostering a culture of learning and collaboration within your school community. Check out MiddleWeb’s book reviews for many growth-inspiring PD resources and this article that offers suggestions for fiction books that offer insights to teaching middle school students.

Social Media

Social media platforms can be valuable sources of inspiration and ideas for professional development. Follow educators, educational organizations, thought leaders, hashtags, etc. that share content relevant to your interests and goals. Engage with their posts to deepen your understanding and inspire curiosity. I get many ideas from social media that inspire me to read articles and investigate topics. This is a great way to learn new things in your own time, focus on your interests, and make connections.


Seeking feedback from students and colleagues can provide valuable insights into your teaching practice. A few times a year I ask my students to provide anonymous feedback about how the course is going. I ask them to share specific things I am doing to help them or that make it difficult to learn, provide feedback on class resources, structure, and anything else that they would like to share.

I value this opportunity to get their perspectives as learners in my classroom and always come away with a few things that I can change to improve their experience. I also find out what is working for them so that I can make sure to incorporate it in the future. Consistently reflecting on this feedback and incorporating it into my practice helps me grow as educator and shows students that I value their experiences.

Goal setting

Setting clear and achievable goals helps provide me with direction and motivation. I often have daily, monthly, and long-term goals written in a notepad on my desk. Revisiting these goals, tracking my own progress, and adjusting or eliminating goals as needed helps me prioritize my time.

By actively seeking opportunities for growth and learning, teachers can enhance their effectiveness in the classroom, make a positive impact on students, and learn about themselves as educators. Finding the same growth mindset that I consistently try to inspire in my students is an important part of implementing new ideas from professional development. Professional development often inspires me to try new things, and with that, I need a mindset that values my effort and resilience so that I can feel confident when I make mistakes and use those mistakes as an opportunity for improvement and to innovate my practice.

Looking ahead: observations and feedback

I have found that observing other teachers and receiving feedback from colleagues is one of the most effective in-house professional development tools. Summer is a good time to start thinking about and planning for ways create these opportunities.

In my previous role as a department chair and my current role as Director of Studies in my middle school, observing teachers is one of my responsibilities. I learn something in every classroom that I visit. Seeing other teachers teach is one of the favorite aspects of my job, and one that helps me grow professionally as I help others grow by providing feedback.

Teachers, I encourage you to reach out to colleagues and ask if you can visit their classrooms. Pay attention to things that you may want to improve or that interest you. Then share with them what you learned. Invite your colleagues into your classroom and ask them for their feedback and what they noticed. Consider seeking feedback about classroom management, student engagement, specific instructional strategies, connection, or any area you would like to know more about your practice.

It’s important to approach this as a learning opportunity rather than a judgment, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement by providing specific, actionable, and supportive feedback. Administrators, take time to visit classrooms and learn from teachers, encourage teachers to spend time in each other’s classrooms, and if possible, provide substitutes for new teachers to take a day or two to visit classrooms of veteran teachers.

Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) is the Middle School Director of Studies and an 8th Grade English Teacher and Advisor at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School. Kasey loves to share ideas from her classroom and her leadership roles and writes frequently for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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