When students think of summertime, they typically dream of long, lazy days doing anything but schoolwork. Whether its sleeping in late or spending an entire day playing their favorite video game, most kids want nothing to do with academics during their break. Teachers, though, are wired differently. Yes, we crave some time off and will no doubt spend some of our reprieve sleeping in a hammock or sipping a fruity drink by the pool, but we also have things we’d like to get done during the summer to increase our chances of having a successful school year when fall rolls around again. Use this guide to strike the perfect balance between the R&R you want and the productivity you need to be ready when school resumes.
Teaching is exhausting, especially if you’re doing it right. After a full school year of grading papers, high-fiving students, constructing bulletin boards, and planning project-based learning activities, you not only deserve a break, you absolutely need one! Take the first part of your summer to do nothing—and I mean nothing—but relax. Here are a few ideas for getting in the relaxation time you so desperately need:
You’ll likely want to catch up on some much-needed Zs, so sleep in and/or schedule a couple of naps a day. If you opt for naps, though, be sure to take them earlier in the day, so that you can still get a good night’s sleep. The last thing you want to do is botch your sleep cycle before school starts again. Experts also advise that you keep your naps short—no more than 30 minutes—so that you don’t fall into a deep sleep and wake up groggy.
Consider taking a vacation. Book a trip to somewhere exotic, or at the very least, a place you’ve never been before. In addition to taking advantage of some R&R, you’ll come back with some great stories to share with your new students in the fall. Keep in mind that some cruise lines offer discounts for educators, making a summer adventure feasible, even on a teacher’s salary.
If you haven’t already discovered the magic brew, you should know that tea can be a powerful relaxant. Take some time this summer to explore the many different types and flavors of tea until you fall in love with one (or more!). Keep in mind, though, that different types of tea have different purposes. While chamomile tea is known for its soothing properties, for example, passionflower tea has been shown to combat anxiety. Other types of tea like oolong and black varieties can be energizing and help you focus.
Things get so busy during the school year that it’s hard to find time to do anything except put one foot in front of the other. Thus, reflection is a necessary, yet often neglected, part of the teaching process. Take some time this summer to reflect on the past school year, including all its successes and pitfalls. As you’re engaging in this process, be sure to be objective, but at the same time, go easy on yourself. If you know you’ve given it your all, then there’s no sense in beating yourself up. At the same time, though, identifying areas of weakness is the only way to ensure continued growth. Was there a particular curriculum unit that fell flat, for example? Did you try a new classroom management technique only to have it backfire? The only way to prevent making these mistakes again next school year is to identify them now. Keep a journal as you reflect, so that you have a written account of what went right and what missed the mark.
As you’ve likely witnessed firsthand, teacher burnout is a reality. With all the hoops teachers have to jump through in today’s climate of heightened accountability, it’s important to stay energized and passionate about the immensely important job that you do day in and day out. This summer, take some time to find out what revitalizes you. Below are a couple of ideas that may help you get invigorated for the upcoming school year.
Read a book by an educator who inspires you or a title that promises inspiration. Need ideas? Check out the titles below for suggestions:
- The Courage to Teach by Parker J. Palmer
- Teaching from the Heart by Sharon M. Draper
- Today I Made a Difference: A Collection of Inspirational Stories from America’s Top Educators by Joseph W. Underwood
- Kids These Days: A Teacher’s Inspirational Journey That Will Change the Way You Think About Today’s Youth by Mary Endres Thomas
Everyone knows that exercise is good for your physical health. If you want to lose weight or improve your heart health, then a regular cardio routine is a no-brainer, but exercise is a good mental remedy as well, which is why it’s an ideal activity to include in your summer schedule. Yoga, in particular, has been shown to reduce stress and depression. Any sort of exercise has the potential of helping you feel more empowered and capable though, which can translate to increased effectiveness in the classroom.
Whether you’ve been assigned a new grade level or subject come fall or you’re planning to teach the same curriculum you’ve taught for a decade, planning should be an essential part of your summer preparation. If the former is the case, then you’ll need to brush up on your content knowledge and perhaps even do some research, whether formal or informal. Scour the web for lesson plans in the subject area you’re planning to teach. Choose the ones that fit best into your new curriculum and revamp them to meet your individual learning goals and teaching style. Talk to colleagues who teach the same grade level and get some inside information on what you can expect from your new students when you return to the classroom.
If you’re already familiar with your grade level and subject area, then you’ll still need to devote some time to planning over the summer, just in a different way. Take some time to review your current curriculum and assess what does and doesn’t work. You’ll want to keep some staple lessons, of course, but there will be others that need revamping and some that can be tossed altogether. Whether you decide to keep most of your curriculum or start from scratch, be sure to update it with a few brand new plans. Teaching the same plans year after year can be boring at best, and at worst, could lead to burnout or lack of engagement for your students. Don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit!
The more of your break you’re able to devote to planning, the smoother your year will go when school starts up again. Don’t overdo it, though. Think of your break between semesters as a balancing act of sorts. Yes, you’ll want to get some work done in order to get a head start on the upcoming school year, but you also need to rest, relax, and invigorate so that you’ll be on top of your teaching game when the first bell rings to announce the beginning of a brand new school year.
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