Greetings to my hard-working, wonderful colleagues,
Yes, it has finally arrived! Summer break is upon us! School is out and that means finally having time for US! No need to set the alarm and follow a bell schedule, along with long nights of grading and lesson planning. Instead, we cherish the opportunity for fun in the sun, reading for pleasure, lots of family time, including a family vacation; lazy days, and just about anything that we can’t do during the school year—basically, time to renew, relax, and refresh!
For some of us, it is not easy to let go over the summer and we proceed right into planning for the next school year. Others walk out of the school building eager to leave job responsibilities behind, setting “away” messages and unplugging from school email, and the like. I always landed somewhere in the middle.
Of course, I wanted to enjoy my summer, but I also needed to be ready for the next school year so that I could really enjoy summer without a nagging feeling of something unfinished. To do this, I found it helpful to reflect on successes in the classroom and think ahead to what I needed to work on for August, which would come very quickly. Maybe some of you do the same. After all, no matter how ready we are for summer vacation, we also love teaching and are dedicated to our students and their learning.
So, consider taking a half hour or so to log some notes for August. Even a simple list of “What I am most proud of and want to continue to achieve” and another list noting “Goals for the next school year” can be very helpful. This reflection allows us to experience closure and feel ready to renew, relax, and refresh.You can do this by course/level or categories (e.g., lesson planning and communication with families). In the end, this reflection and note-taking provide valuable direction for when back to school is looming and it’s time to dig in again. These notes can help us to be more effective planners, removing the “cobwebs” formed from not focusing on school over the summer, and preparing us to pick up right where we left off in June.
Once I had this taken care of, I could relax and look forward to my newfound time. Let’s take a look at tips to make summer a much-needed opportunity for recharging our batteries through a recharge mindset and activities that support the need to renew, relax, and refresh!
- Read for pleasure – I sometimes find it hard to do this with my consulting work (Yes, it’s hard to completely “retire!”), but getting a chance to lose oneself in a great read, just for enjoyment, not curriculum-related, is a great way to relax. Summer months add ambiance, as there is nothing quite like being outdoors, sipping a refreshing drink, and reading a great piece of literature, whether classic or modern day. Choose two or three books that you have been wanting to dive into, ask friends for suggestions, visit your local library, or just search for your favorite genre online. Reading for pleasure not only recharges the mind and imagination, but it also stirs senses and emotions, provoking thought.
Last summer I read Isabel Allende’s Largo pétalo del mar. Wow, I did not want it to end! I am a great fan of historical fiction and this novel, covering many decades and two continents, goes from the Spanish Civil War to Chile’s political climate after the fall of Pinochet. I highly recommend it for all. It is also available in English.
- Take care of your physical health – This is a good time to set goals for taking better care of ourselves. Let’s face it, teachers barely have time for lunch and the restroom during the school day! Frequently, as I left at the end of a long day, I realized I was carrying my lunch and coffee, untouched and unconsumed, back home.
Now is a great time to get into some good habits for taking care of ourselves (and our family). Why not prepare that new recipe you’ve been wanting to try? Watch a cooking show and get tips on nutrition and mindful eating. It’s a great way to recharge your physical battery.
Along with that, what about physical fitness? Maybe you already have this handled and frequent the gym or have an exercise routine. But I know that many teachers, after taking care of their professional responsibilities and family needs, have little time during the school year for the gym. How about taking up a new sport or renewing interest in a past one? What interests you? It could just be long walks and time to think, with your earbuds in, listening to your favorite music. Ahhhh…
I was not great at getting regular exercise while teaching. When I retired, my husband and I took up pickleball. It is a great sport for lazy summer days and gives me quite a workout without being too challenging. You might want to give it a try. I believe that it is currently the fastest-growing sport in the country!
- Follow your dreams – What have you wanted to do all school year? What has been on your summer “bucket list?” Maybe you have dreamed of writing poetry or learning to play mahjong. Perhaps you have wanted to take up knitting, photography, gardening, or even surfing. Summer vacation gives us the opportunity to set some personal enjoyment goals or renew old ones. What are you waiting for? It’s time to dream big and enjoy!
- Travel – Where have you been wanting to go? Even leisurely day trips to historic towns or monuments, to a nearby lake or beach, or a shopping trip to a different location, can be very relaxing and refreshing. With overnight travel, whether for a weekend trip or a detailed itinerary involving a week or more away, we teachers crave opportunities to learn and grow. As a Spanish and French teacher, I always shared my love of travel with my students, leading many student trips to Spain and France in the summers, opening their eyes to the cultural wonders of these beautiful destinations.
My husband and I always look forward to trips abroad. In fact, we are leaving soon for the AATSP Conference in Spain. Then we are spending a few days in France before heading home. I can’t wait to enjoy the landscape, cultural and historic sights, spend time with great colleagues, and savor all that exquisite food. We will probably will head straight for a great paella once we get to Salamanca!
Honestly, attending a summer conference is a great way to mix business with pleasure, preparing for the next school year while also having a great time. I always leave refreshed, renewed, and yes, relaxed! The AATSP Conference is coming up fast, but check it out; as presidenta, I would love to greet you in Salamanca! For French teachers, the AATF conference will be in Québec in later July. If you teach AP® level courses, why not attend the AP Annual Conference in Seattle, Washington in mid-July? I am looking forward to that one, too!
- Just enjoy the day and daydream – There is something to be said for just doing nothing! I think that this is especially hard for teachers, because our minds are always on the move. However, allowing oneself to just “chill” is a blessing, even just enjoying a pretty day, sitting outdoors, dreaming, planning, and thinking. Clearing our minds and allowing ourselves to sit quietly is the best way to renew, relax, and refresh, if you can do it. In fact, just watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset is a great way to start or end the day!
Finally, I am compelled to add that school matters will start to invade your summer space at some point. It can’t be helped; we are teachers! For me it came in the form of dreams interrupting my night’s sleep. This dreaming about school usually started in mid- to late July every summer. That was my cue to start planning for my upcoming classes. So, I just whipped out my very important reflection notes I had jotted down at the end of the school year, and slowly eased back into my routine, happily renewed, relaxed, and recharged.
Enjoy your much-deserved summer break!
By Parthena Draggett