I approach each summer with the anticipation of knowing I have a large amount of time to devote to things I just didn’t have the time or energy to tackle during the school year.
As I look ahead to the warmer months, I make a mental list of tasks I’ll complete during the summer break, while I dodge the ever-growing number of emails I keep promising myself I’ll read, overlook the school bag full of binders and Professional Development books I plan to read and work on, and neglect the closets I really need to reorganize.
I recently read an article on why some people procrastinate. The author quoted a study that asserted that we procrastinators value our “present selves” over our “future selves.” I couldn’t agree more. I get swallowed up in reading, sucked in to scrolling through social media, pinning craft ideas, or just taking a nap, and my task list still sits there, untouched. And while none of those activities are unfavorable, I have returned to school some years feeling the same stress I left with in June.
After eleven years in teaching, I have reconsidered how to make the most of my summer. And although each of my summer experiences has been different, when I stick to these simple steps, I find that I am refreshed and ready to begin a new school year.
- Limit the Work You Bring Home
Even before the last day of school, begin thinking about what school tasks you would most like to complete and have ready for back to school. Prioritize the 2-3 tasks (or one if it’s big!) that need your attention over the summer. The temptation to bring lots of things home is strong, but I’ve found that the more things I bring home, the more overwhelmed I feel, and the less likely I’ll be to work on any of it.
This includes any classroom projects you want to complete for the first day of school. Building IKEA shelves, adding flexible seating options, preparing student data binders, or printing and labeling, well, everything. But if you’re anything like me (a Type B Teacher), several incomplete projects will be taking up space in your living room.
This seems obvious, but even Type A Teachers can overdo it if they don’t make time for themselves. Those tasks I mentioned earlier might be considered by some to be relaxing. If that’s the case, then go for it! Others might choose a slightly less active endeavor, such as reading for pleasure, crafting, pinning recipes, or going to the movies.
You may be tempted to give in to naysayers who claim that teachers have “summers off.” Our profession is emotionally demanding and challenges even the most veteran among us. Teachers use the summer months to take professional development courses, catch up on webinars and workshops, and plan for their upcoming school year. The time to relax becomes limited, so be sure to make time for it. Your best chocolate chip lava cookie recipe depends on it.
Each afternoon, once my students have left and the classroom buzz settles, I often stop to think about my day. (In all honesty, I have little energy left for much else!) I consider what went well, and just as importantly, what didn’t. I make a note of what changes I need to make next time and what I need to follow up on later. And I usually check my email, which can be time consuming but necessary.
However, the hustle and bustle of the school year leaves little time to think broadly about your teaching. Summer is the perfect opportunity to do that. Ask yourself questions such as “Why do I teach?” and “Would I want to be a student in my classroom?” Answer honestly. Develop a personal teaching philosophy if you don’t already have one. Consider whether you are open to learning new things about pedagogy, and whether your students’ needs are at the front of everything you do. Strive to be a better teacher than you were yesterday. Our genuine responses may surprise us, but they’re imperative to our growth as teachers.
- Get organized
There are a plethora of ways to get organized, and just as many ideas of what “organized” means. You know yourself best. This could mean cleaning out that closet I mentioned earlier, weeding through the filing cabinets you inherited from the teacher before you (or tossing them out entirely!), gathering ideas from other teachers on social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest, and even lesson planning.
What do you need in order to begin the school year on the right foot? Keep that image in mind when planning out your summer. This doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, but since summer still has its own claims on your time, by setting aside specific times throughout your break, you’ll be more likely to accomplish what you set out to do. Create a weekly task goal so that you can focus your energy on what really matters. Keep in mind your best times of day: Are you a morning person or a night owl? Work on your goal at times when you’re most efficient. The structure of a weekly and even daily task list will make all the difference.
The key to a successful school year begins just as the old year ends. Take these four simple steps to make the most of your well-earned summer!