I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to immediately transition to summer. The last week of school is a crazy race-to-the-finish-line with report cards, mega-engaging lesson plans to keep behavior at bay, assemblies, and room clean-out. Then all of a sudden — nothing. It takes me a few days to slow myself down to a normal pace and also makes me realize how as teachers, we are always in a state of rushing. There’s just never enough time.
Summer is a time to find balance in our lives. It is a time to clear our head, reflect on the school year, and think of ideas for the upcoming one. There have been some summers where I’ve worked nonstop. I figured if I did enough work throughout the summer by going to conferences, writing curriculum, etc., maybe I wouldn’t need to balance those “extras” with teaching during the school year. That plan backfired — I still did those things during the school year. In addition, I wasn’t refreshed and recharged for a new group of students.
How can we maximize our summer days?
How can we maximize our summer days to help us buy back time during the year when we need it?
I’ve found a few ways to help me recharge in the summer. They all follow the same loose theme: taking care of myself. Find what works for you, and don’t feel guilty when you engage in self-care. It will clear your head, allowing your passion for teaching to come to the forefront, and all of those creative ideas that were squashed down due to the stress and race of the school year will bubble to the surface.
See New Sights
Nothing is better for inspiration than seeing something new. So often, we have such a routine during the school year that we see the same places, people, and commute each day. Take a day trip to a local place you’ve never visited, or plan a longer trip to a place you’ve never seen. This doesn’t need to be expensive- sometimes being a tourist in your own town can be enough to break the monotony of day to day life. Think broad, and feast your eyes on museums, national parks, local parks, or vacation spots. Just seeing something new can broaden your perspective and inspire ideas. And a perk: traveling in the summer prevents you from having to write substitute plans!
Tap Into Your Creative Side
As teachers, we rarely have enough time to immerse ourselves in creative endeavors during the year. Are you a visual artist? Devote time each day to your craft, or take a class to extend it. Are you a musician? Find a local group that you can practice or perform with during the summer months. As a dancer, I find that just picking up an extra class during the summer helps me reconnect with my creative side- I start to think of myself not as a “teacher who takes a dance class every now” and then to “a dancer who is also a teacher”. Challenge yourself to a new aspect of your creative self. I typically focus on ballet, but one summer I took the most amazing session of West African Dance which gave me an opportunity to learn something new. How great to be the one going through the learning process for a change, rather than leading it. Find something that challenges you and helps you grow as an artist.
Summer is a great time to catch up on books you’ve been saving in your Amazon cart. I try to balance my reading between books for pleasure, educational topics, and children’s literature to preview for the upcoming school year. Keep it personal and read on your own, or make it a social event: find a group and read the same book so that you can discuss it. I like to get ahead with the Global Read Aloud books, and I follow the Innovator’s Mindset Book Group online.
Grow your PLN (Professional Learning Network)
Speaking of online connections, summer is a great time to find or grow your online network of educators that can inspire you and build you up. Some of my colleagues don’t like to talk “teacher” over the summer, so finding connections online helps me to bounce ideas off of other educators without disrupting my colleagues’ way of recharging. Participate in a Twitter chat and follow the participants. The K12ArtChat is a great way to start! Attend EducationCloset’s Online Conference to connect with others. This is one of the best ways I have found to make connections with other teachers… Especially teachers who use an arts-integrated approach. I have gained so much from the sessions, but even more from the real-time chat.
Exercise and eat healthily
Find a way to move that works for you. If you struggle to stay motivated, find a friend to hold you accountable or sign up for group classes somewhere. Take daily walks with a walking buddy, find a yoga studio, or ride a bike. Take advantage of summer fruits and vegetables and try new healthy recipes. Taking care of your physical body will help you stay strong to handle the pace of school year. Now is a great time to settle into a healthy exercise and eating routine. Why? So that you don’t have to adjust to it during your more stressful months!
Prepare yourself for the upcoming year
We know that as soon as we start back to school, the race begins again. Plan ahead for your own self-care. One way is to use pockets of time in the summer to organize and think ahead. Clean out your closets and make it easier to grab what you need once the year begins. Double your recipes and freeze meals for September. Shop ahead for wardrobe essentials, gifts for the year, and school supplies. Now is the time to look into time savers for the school year. Have you checked out Stitch Fix for clothes, or meal services such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or SunBasket? Does your grocery store have an online pickup service? Are there other time-saving services that can help you, such as a cleaning service or landscapers? I have a colleague who loves Teacher Care Crates by The Designer Teacher. A self-care package is sent monthly to inspire, relax, and encourage her. This same teacher schedules Friday afternoon massages as a local spa at stressful times of the year such as the first week of school, ends of marking periods, and after state testing. She has the right idea!
It doesn’t really matter what you do to recharge, as long as you take the time to do it. Slow your pace during the summer. Allow time to clear your head and find yourself again. You’ll return to school in the fall satisfied, balanced, and relaxed.
Dyan is a third grade teacher in a public school district in Lancaster, PA and has over 16 years of classroom experience. With a Masters of Science Education and a passion for dance and music, she strives to integrate the arts into the curriculum whenever possible. Dyan has a background in teaching advanced learners, and is devoted to using project based learning to help her students achieve 21st century learning skills and master the PA Core Standards.