Summer Learning, Had me a Blast, Summer Learning Happened so Fast

 

Disclosure: This post was written in September 2015, I never hit the “publish” button, but as I begin to think about and plan ongoing professional development during this school year and for next summer I feel this urgency to finally hit publish.

www.ABrennanSummerPoem

It is has been a while since my last post and just as I am reflecting on my summer I scroll through the many blog posts I have drafted and not yet published.  I am beginning to feel overwhelmed by this, yet I know hitting the “publish” button just once will help me to get one step closer to completing my numerous drafts.

Last night finally I was out to dinner with my husband and friends, as we stepped out of the car for the valet parking the cold air hit me, it was then that I realized summer is over. I looked out at the marina, the boats and the water and then I felt the air again, it was cold. A sudden sadness came over me.  The summer ended, the warm sun, the beach, the sand the salt air, it was over. Later as I sat at my computer,  I realized not only did my personal summer go so fast, but so did my professional summer.  Starting a new position in July and several professional learning opportunities helped the summer months fly by for me.  This realization pressed against me and I felt the urgency to write this post about my summer learning.  Perhaps this will help me to embrace the beautiful fall, the pumpkins, the leaves changing and the most exciting part of fall- when children arrive back at school.

Long Island Connected Leadership Institute 

This was a great opportunity led by Dr. Bill Brennan, this day was about sharing the power of being a connected educator with teams from our schools on Long Island. For me this was a day with colleagues and friends from the district I was departing from and an opportunity to learn alongside so many other educational leaders taking part in this institute.  The big takeaway: there are endless possibilities when you become a connected educator and this knowledge and understanding needs to continue to spread so that it will have a positive impact on learning for ourselves and most of all our students.

EdCamplLdr The Hamptons

The Hamptons, who would not want to be in the Hampton on a mid-July day?  I can tell you the turn out for Edcamp Leadership New York in the Hamptons was impressive.  On this day I felt proud to be a part of the whole experience, but I really and truly felt proud to be an educator on Long Island.  I remember the excitement in Dennis Shrug‘s voice when he first explained to me his vision in bringing EdCampLdr to NY.  It is that energy and passion that drove so may Long Island educators to Dennis’ Hampton Bays Middle School.  Similar to a great night out at dinner, you often hear comments about the ambiance of the restaurant, the people you share your meal with, the restaurant staff and of course the food.  For us that day at EdCampLdr, it was the impressive school building that fostered intellectual curiosity in its design, the people who we talked with in different sessions, the people we sat and had lunch with, and finally those who shared at the end of the day smackdown.  The big takeaway: there is so much to learn from fellow Long Island educators any opportunity that brings together dedicated educators is well worth the time.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Institute in American History and Content Literacy

This was my second summer attending this institute, in this case however I had the extreme honor of participating along with Jasmine Junsey as a peer leader.  The partnership between Colonial Williamsburg and Teachers College Reading and Writing Project was possible through a very generous donor from Long Island and I am forever thankful for her generosity and the impact it has had on so many educators and students.  Taking part in the planning along with Jasmine, I learned from Emily Butler Smith, Tab BroylesAndy Engels, Jodi Norman and Erin Sloan in deeper and more profound ways than I had the summer before as a participant.  To say that this experience changed me as an educator is an understatement.  Since the first day I put my feet down on the ground in Colonial Williamsburg that first summer, my mindset around the teaching of social studies has forever changed.  The big takeaway:  in learning social studies and content literacy it is all about the thinking.  The habits of mind that we instill in our students, those are the skills that carry over to any content in social studies, or any content in general.  When it comes to learning, it is all about the thinking.

Summer Learning Collaborative

In a new position as the Director of Elementary Education, I was fortunate to be handed this incredible idea.  The district ran a summer reading program the year before and this year in addition to the students learning, the new vision involved many learners; students, graduate students, district teachers and parents.  This idea was like a dream for me, it  connected with my passion around learning in the company of others — I could not wait to begin planning.  I felt as if I won the Golden Ticket!

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I planned along with Dr. Erica Pecorale the district’s literacy professional developer and Director of Teacher Education for Long Island University at the Riverhead Campus, she shared the vision of the summer learning plan.  This plan brought together a public school district, a university, professional texts, and most importantly the people behind them; the  students, the parents, the teachers and the authors.   As we planned with  Jennifer Hayhurst, Literacy Coach  our ideas came together and grew as I learned in greater depths about the true power of collaboration and what can happen when people who share passions come together to advance learning for all, children and adults alike.  We spent endless hours on Google Hangouts planning our 3 weeks to ensure that students, teachers and parents would be involved in a learning experience that would connect them through ideas around shared texts. We blended district teachers with graduate students working in their literacy practicuum and gave them opportunities for peer coaching in classrooms with students.  We blended collaboration and reflection time outside of the classroom.  We brought in Stacey Shubitz and Barb Golub to engage teachers and graduate students in thinking and learning around conferring and toolkits for reading and writing workshop.  We purchased books (Jen Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book and Tanny McGregor’s book Comprehension Connections ) for teachers and studied those books together and practiced these strategies in classrooms each day.  We shared these practices with parents over the course of three parent and child workshops.  We were learning in the company of others and all of us grew in our thinking around critical ideas in advancing literacy learning for all students.

As a new administrator in this district, this was an opportunity to learn alongside so many amazing educators, to get to know teachers, parents and students as learners.  The big takeaway:  when you pull together partners in education and spread the idea of learning and collaboration and commit to this, everyone wins!