Online Courses for Teachers this Summer

Dr. Jeff Keeling
Dr. Jeff Keeling
High school principal; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Young man working on a laptop taking notes.

How do Teachers Benefit from these Online Courses?

To some extent, perhaps teachers look forward to summer vacation as much or more than their students. While the summer months provide a much-needed mental and physical respite from the rigors of daily teaching, they also provide an opportunity for educators to acquire new skills and knowledge that contribute to making the following school year more productive and successful for both themselves and their students.

Given the immense quantity of available online resources, educators have the opportunity to acquire professional development from their living room recliners, back porches, or even the beach! Additionally, teachers can set their own pace for when they access online resources, allowing for extreme flexibility with regard to their summer schedules.

The following is a list of seven online courses and resources offered either for free or at an extremely nominal cost that will enable teachers to better understand and engage their students.

Addressing Trauma

This course is aimed at providing trauma-informed instruction to students of all ages. In recent years, effectively connecting with and educating children who have endured traumatic experiences has become increasingly necessary. Traumatic experiences drastically affect students’ mental health and therefore impact their perspective when it comes to learning and social interaction. Learning more about how to address students that have endured trauma allows educators to meet students’ emotional needs and use this as a springboard for instruction. Currently, the course Trauma-Informed Resilient Schools is available at no cost through a free 7-day trial membership at Starr Commonwealth.

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is an interesting topic that has become increasingly discussed over the past several years. Enneagram study revolves around identifying personality types based upon behaviors, personal preferences, etc. While the Enneagram has yet to be adopted fully into the teacher-preparation canon, it does provide fairly reliable information about what teachers – and people in general – can expect from others based upon the characteristics of their Enneagram and related “Wings.”

Regardless of whether or not teachers opt to classify students according to the Enneagram, the information presented about personality traits and behaviors helps provide teachers with a better understanding of their students and colleagues. This course is available through Udemy for a cost of $18.99.

Anxiety Awareness

Similar to trauma, anxiety is a topic that seemingly impacts more students with every passing school year. Add to this the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and the numbers of those suffering from anxiety has increased exponentially. Anxiety generally manifests itself during seasons of change or significant stress-inducing pressure and sometimes causes students to withdraw or act out. Understanding anxiety triggers and the ways in which they manifest themselves, especially among the school-aged population, will assist teachers in presenting instruction and assessments in an effective manner. A free three-part webinar is available from Learner’s Edge.

Poverty

Students who live in conditions in which their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter are not met reliably often experience academic challenges that students who have consistent access to the aforementioned needs do not. Academic needs are always secondary to physical and mental needs. Therefore, students impacted by poverty require additional care and sensitivity than those who are not.

At times, it is easy for educators to view all of the students in their classrooms as having the same general needs. The no-cost webinar Children in Need: Poverty and Education will open teachers’ eyes to the world of poverty and the steps they can take to better address the needs of students who have experienced severe socio-economic challenges.

Special Education

The webinar We Are Special: A Conversation About Special Education is an excellent resource for regular education teachers who would like to know more about the field of special education. The special education field contains dozens of acronyms and terminology that can be confusing for educators who only work with special needs students in the regular education setting. This free 30-minute webinar provides an overview for general education teachers that will assist them in better understanding how to read and follow Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and ultimately assist them in providing necessary and legally mandated accommodations for the special needs students they encounter in the regular education setting.

Behavior Problems

From the inception of formalized education, student behavior problems have been a common topic of concern. Although our educational predecessors relied on physical punishments such as the wooden paddle and the so-called “dunce cap.” These strategies have been relegated to the archives of history as potentially more trauma-inducing than corrective in nature. Fortunately, a plethora of strategies for dealing with classroom disruptions exists, and modern research has shifted toward addressing the root causes of negative behaviors as opposed to simply employing punishments.

Classroom management has evolved into a process of not only educating students within the curriculum but also educating them about proper behavior and the expectations for social interactions within the classroom. The webinar Breaking Bad: Tackling Behavior Problems at the Core conducted by Dr. Martha Burns provides an in-depth look at the foundational components of disruptive classroom behaviors and presents strategies for addressing them effectively as they arise.

Primary Sources

Now more than ever, students need to develop critical thinking skills at a young age. Given the potential for misinformation via social media platforms and copious biased news outlets, students need to develop a level of mastery at consulting primary sources and determining the purpose intended by the originator(s). The video Engaging Young Learners with Primary Sources by Teresa St. Angelo is offered free of charge by the United States Library of Congress. This resource will provide educators with beneficial ideas and approaches for fostering primary source analysis among younger students.

Innovation

The emphasis on STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics) education concentrates on teaching students how to become innovators. As the world continues to evolve rapidly toward full automation, the need for workers who will be able to both understand and invent extremely rigorous mathematical, scientific, and artistic design concepts continues to grow. The free one-day course offered by the University of Sydney, Innovation through Design: Make, Break, Repeat focuses, upon the value of designing a product and using its respective failures or shortcomings as a springboard for innovative thinking. A majority of students has been conditioned to fear failure, particularly within the classroom setting. In a STEAM environment, failure is viewed simply as part of the learning process, one that results in better future inventions and designs.

The preceding resources were selected intentionally based upon their ease of accessibility and with respect to the time required to complete them. While the summer months are intended to be a time for rest and rejuvenation, taking advantage of free online professional development resources over the summer provides educators with an opportunity to reflect upon their practice objectively while they are free from the daily pressures of the classroom.

 *Updated July 2021
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