After all the snow we had in New England this year, I wasn't even sure we would get a summer vacation. But the days are winding down, the seniors are gone, and those seven weeks of summer are just around the corner.
While the rest of the world thinks teachers will be basking in the sun, sailing the blue seas, and exploring China during their well-deserved break, in reality, most of us will be enrolled in classes working toward our Master’s degree or Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study, earning PDPs in professional development courses, restructuring lesson plans, taking part in leadership initiatives, and analyzing data to improve student performances.
Despite all that, it’s incredibly important for teachers to recharge those batteries before heading back to school in August or September. Here are my tips:
1. Tackle the Three Biggest Issues in Your Classroom.
Focus on three things you can actually improve during the few weeks of summer. In my classroom, for example, I realized that my Advanced Placement students need more work with literary devices. I plan on creating some engaging and effective lessons to help in that area. I also recently added "A Streetcar Named Desire" to the senior curriculum, and I want to develop some great student-centered lessons that will help my students explore the play on a deeper and more meaningful level. Finally, when I finish creating strong discussion questions for "Macbeth", I’ll feel like I’ve hit my goals.
Once you take care of the Big Three, you can enjoy your summer guilt free and proceed with fun ways to rest and rejuvenate!
2. Read That Book.
Everyone's talking about The Girl on the Train, All The Light We Cannot See, and a thousand other books teachers may not have had time to read during the school year. Make a list of the fun, popular, and obscure books you want to enjoy and dig in. (I confess that I bought The Girl on the Train for summer reading but got hooked so fast I finished it in early May.)
3. Catch up with TV Shows.
All year, I see and hear fascinating commentary on series like Mad Men, Game of Thrones, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black. But since I’m usually in bed by 8:30 and don’t have time to even watch recorded shows, I miss out. Now is the time to catch up on all the great programming you missed during the year.
4. Get Physical.
Since I became a teacher 20 years ago, I’ve put on way too much weight. My students know the way to my heart is through my stomach, and they ply me with candy and cookies. Working from 6:30 in the morning until 6:30 in the evening or longer doesn't leave much time for the gym. This summer, I want to create some great new habits like learning to cook fabulous healthy meals, running on the beach at least three times a week, and doing more weight training. I know in the long run, these habits will make me a healthier, happier, and more effective teacher.
5. Reconnect with Friends.
Summer vacation is a great time to reconnect with friends – especially those who live far away. My friends and I try to see each other during the year, but often obstacles like time and weather get in the way. This year, I’m excited to welcome my fellow Global Teacher Top 50 Finalist, Mareike, from Germany to my home. Catching up with friends is a great way to recharge those batteries.
6. Review Your Finances.
Teachers, like everyone else, often have student loan debt, as well as housing and childcare costs, that get in the way of setting financial goals. This is the perfect time to sit down and figure out your financial goals and a plan to reach them. I’m a huge Suze Orman fan, and her website provides some great worksheets for setting and keeping a budget, as well as creating wills and trusts that protect your legacy. There are also some very well-written books like Tony Robbins’ Money: Master the Game, which simplify the investment process for regular folks.
7. Experience Nature.
I once heard a renowned professor discuss how humans find happiness, and a huge part of the formula was to experience nature every single day. So get out there and visit the beaches, mountains, meadows, and parks that allow you to commune and be one with nature.
8. Create Some Family Memories.
During the summer, when my nieces and nephews were growing up, my 70 year-old mother would often play volleyball with them. It was simple fun, but this memory of their grandmother is a favorite for my relatives. You don’t have to spend huge amounts of money to create memories that will last forever. Plan trips to the park, bike riding excursions, and family barbecues on a hot summer nights. These are the experiences your children, grandchildren, and relatives will treasure forever.
I truly believe there is something to feng shui, the Chinese art of harmonizing with your environment. This year, I plan to redecorate my classroom and home with feng shui principles in mind. Most importantly, I hope to get rid of clutter before I end up on aHoarders episode.
10. Be a Slug.
I probably won’t be visiting the Seven Wonders of the World this summer. If I’m lucky, I'll accomplish at least eight of the tips on this list. But most of all, I can’t wait to just veg out on my deck with my beagle, Flippy, at my feet, reflecting on the year behind me and planning for the one ahead.
By Nancy Barile
Nancy Barile (@nancybarile), a National Board certified teacher, has taught English/language arts at Revere High School in Revere, Mass., for 20 years and is an adjunt professor at Emmanuel College. Nancy won the Massachusetts Commonwealth Award for Creative Learning in 2011 and the Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award in 2013.