Ahhh…summer: the most beautiful word in the English language to students and teachers alike. But what good is summer if you either squander it with too much down time, or are so frazzled by activities that you’re burned out by the fall?
Think of the following 10 “R”s as a summer break syllabus, of sorts, to help you make the most of your precious time off.
It’s celebration time: c’mon! You’ve made it through the wild ride of teaching for a year and that is no small feat! Commemorate your efforts with some festive frivolity, in whatever form that takes. Blow off some steam. Pat yourself on the back. And raise a toast to yourself! This could either be a week devoted to fun, or a few hours each day over the course of your summer break. The point is to, well…make a point of acknowledging the Herculean effort of finishing the school year!
It’s OK to sleep in sometimes. Especially after a year of hectic mornings rushing out the door. Teaching is an intense, high-energy job so be sure to unwind from stress and refresh your mind, body and spirit. Treat yourself to some long baths, binge-watching sessions, or just pencil in some time to veg-out with family or friends. It’s all good. Sometimes the best thing to do is absolutely nothing.
OK, now your are starting to relax. Your muscles aren’t as tense. Your mind is clearer. So take a moment to look back upon your school year. Reflecting on your practice, your students, and your attitude can help you to see the big picture. What worked? What could be improved? What were some victories? And what were some challenges? Get a journal and jot down your thoughts while they are fresh. You can review them later. Remind yourself why you do what you do.
Stretch your legs and get out of the house. This could be a trip abroad or just a jaunt across town. And while you’re out there, think of things that might improve your teaching practice. If you can afford it, try visiting a city that happens to have a teaching conference. Some of you will be joining us for Fusion in June. There's also the ISTE Conference in July, or any number of one-day or weekend conferences for teachers available during the summer. Or if there’s something in your curriculum that could be enlivened with a visit to a museum, exhibit, natural landmark…think of it as a field trip for yourself.
Now that you’re relaxed and have broadened your horizons, it’s time to get inspired and recharge your creative batteries. Take an online course, watch a Ted Talk, or subscribe to an education podcast. It doesn’t even have to be directly associated with your discipline. You’d be surprised at the transferrable skills you’ll discover and how they can enrich your practice.
6) Reach Out
OK, maybe you’ve gotten your fair share of sun. So seek out some shade, grab an iced coffee and get social. Go on a Twitter or Instagram follow frenzy (few suggestions: @nwea, @weareteachers, @edutopia). Get greedy and grab inspiring classroom photos, project ideas and resources from Instagram. Stick a pin in some motivating classroom configurations on Pinterest. Or connect with great groups on Facebook such as Mind/Shift and Cult of Pedagogy. Go on a virtual professional development safari!
No matter what resources and inspiration you can glean from social media, nothing beats that face-to-face connection. Get together with your teaching colleagues outside of the confines and rigorous schedule of school. Get reacquainted. Swap stories. Share your journal reflections from earlier. Whatever you do, getting together for brunch or coffee can help make sure that everyone is on the same page for the coming year.
As the late summer heat beats down, nothing beats relaxing with a good book. Find a quiet place and catch up with all of those great education books you never seem to have time to read. Or, if libraries are more your thing, go to your local book palace and bone up on the accumulated expertise of countless other educators. And if your attention span isn’t all it could be…what was I talking about? Oh yeah: you can also attack that pile of teaching magazines or thin out your web browser’s bookmarks and finally read that article about differentiated learning you’ve been meaning to!
As the end of summer draws near, spend some time thinking about what you have learned over your break. What areas do you feel more confident in now? What techniques are you excited to share with your peers? What new strategies do you feel your students can benefit from? Think about either lessons that could be improved with a new perspective, or learning objectives that might be better met with a new approach. Or how about some classroom procedures that could be improved to maximize your efficiency?
OK, it’s almost Go Time. You’re relaxed, you’re refreshed, you’re reinvigorated…now get ready to hit the classroom running. Before that big first day, brainstorm new ideas for the upcoming year. Come up with new classroom strategies or activities you’d like to try. Set a goal to revise any lessons that need updating. It’s important to keep things fresh.
Before the school year hits, try booking some field trip opportunities ahead of time. Securing spots will mean less disappointment later. Also, try attacking any “busy work” now while you can: getting your classroom set up the way you like it, creating class lists in your gradebook, and making sure you know of any students with special needs. Above all enjoy the process, and your students will enjoy the results.
What are some ways that you balance rest and relaxation with professional development during your summer break? How do you take time to invest in yourself?