Summer for Teachers — How to Get the Most out of Your Break
The long summer break gives you weeks to do what you want, but as a teacher, summer vacation does not always mean just lying on the beach or watching hours of TV. You can get more out of your summer to improve yourself and relax your mind so you're ready for the new school year in the fall. Don't let your summer break pass by without making the most from the time you have.
How Summer Break Helps Teachers Maintain Balance
During the academic year, teachers rarely have the same hours of work each week. At times during the year, you may have less homework to grade and fewer meetings. Near exams and the end of the quarter or term, though, you may find yourself staying late and having extra meetings with other teachers, parents and colleagues. In many cases, you may find yourself at school on weekends and during holidays, too.
If you are like most teachers, you often put in more than 40 hours a week on average during the school year, so summer break gives you a chance to rebalance your life in many ways. You need time for family, personal improvement, hobbies, friends, education and fitness in addition to the hours you spend teaching. Use the summer weeks to take time for yourself, so you have enough energy to devote to your students once school starts.
Do you need to take extra classes for continuing education, or is your bank account a little low and you need a summer job? Will you have a new grade or subject next school year you need to prepare lessons for? The answers to questions like these can help you to determine which areas of your life most need balance.
Balance is the secret behind getting the most from your break. You have such an uncertain, stressful schedule during the school year. Use the summer to create time for yourself as well as those in your life, and don't forget to allow for a transition into the new school year. When you learn to achieve an appropriate work-life balance, even if it happens during summer vacation, you can return to the classroom more relaxed and productive.
How to Get the Most out of Your Break
Your summer break should help you to reset your mental and physical well-being. Once you've gotten adequate rest, though, you may find yourself drifting aimlessly until school returns. Prevent this situation by creating a means to get the most from your summer break.
Use the same planning strategies you implement during the school year to line up your summer schedule. Plot out time to restore yourself while allowing enough time for fun and self-improving activities.
To keep yourself from getting lost in too many options for the summer, choose the most important activities to you and put them onto a calendar or planner, which can keep you on track during your break. See how much of your time these activities take. If you still have enough free time for relaxation and want to add even more to your summer, go ahead. Should you look at the planner and realize you have overbooked yourself for the summer, put off some of those activities for next summer or consider if you can do them during the school year. You don't want to wear yourself out emotionally, mentally or physically before starting school in the fall. Summer should be a time for fun, rest and personal edification.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Connect with your community by volunteering your time and talents. Choose a cause you care deeply about and devote some of your summer break to helping a charity in the area.
If you want to use your teaching skills or help local students, consider the following:
- Helping students refresh their academic skills before starting school
- Teaching those with English as their second language how to read and speak English
- Read to kids at the local library
- Volunteer to teach adult literacy classes
- Help adults find resources to get their GEDs
Of course, you don't have to teach when you volunteer. If you love animals, you may want to walk dogs at your local animal shelter. Perhaps you want to improve the environment, so you might volunteer for a beach cleanup. You don't have to commit to a specific organization, either. Find a few short-term activities to give back to your community during your free time this summer.
2. Teach Summer Camp or School
If you need some extra money over the summer, sign up to teach summer school or become a counselor at a summer camp. Ask your school district's HR department about openings to teach summer school.
For summer camp, you don't have to be an outdoor person. Many day-camps teach kids about everything from math to robotics to computer programing to acting. Find a topic you enjoy and have experience with, and research local summer camps to see which ones need teachers.
3. Take Classes
Don't neglect your education during the summer. You spend the whole school year teaching others. Use the summer to take classes toward your edification. Many universities have on-campus and online courses over summer semesters that end before the academic year begins in the fall.
Taking classes over the summer could include professional development classes you need to keep your teaching certification. You may also consider courses toward a master's degree or doctorate.
4. Learn a New Hobby
During the school year, you may come home and wish you had an established hobby to relax, but you lack the hours it takes to learn it. During the summer, find a new pastime you can enjoy throughout the year.
Whether you take musical instrument lessons, plant a garden, take art classes or begin a new craft, these activities often require time to master them. Take the summer to learn the basics, which can be the most time-consuming part. Then, once you have the basics down, these activities become much more enjoyable and relaxing — and you can continue to work on them throughout the rest of the year.
If you want to make friends while trying out something new, look for local classes to learn. Try dance lessons, art classes, singing clubs and crafting circles to combine your hobby with meeting new people. Building up your circle of friends gives you a stronger support network that you can turn to when you feel stressed during the school year.
Having more friends can make your school year stress lower, too. According to the American Psychological Association, those who did not have emotional support reported stress levels of 6.3 on a scale of one to 10. Those with a support network claimed lower average stress levels at 5.0.
Getting out of your town, state or country during the academic year can be difficult, so do it over the summer! Trips you take during this time of year also benefit from sunny, warm weather that you may not experience when traveling in the winter.
If you plan to go out of the country during the summer, check your passport status no later than the beginning of the school year. You don't want your overseas plans thwarted by an expired passport. Planning your trip early also helps you get better deals on airplane tickets and hotel rooms. Additionally, you'll have a reward to look forward to, especially as you get down to the last few weeks of the school year.
Tips for Relaxing and Recharging
There is likely a lot you want to do and accomplish over the summer, but don't forget to take time to relax and recharge. If you don't take care of yourself, you will feel too tired to help your students. Self-care goes a long way toward avoiding burnout, especially in high-stress jobs like teaching. Try these tips to create a self-care regimen this summer.
1. Focus on Yourself
You need to focus on caring for yourself during the summer. Read those books or watch those movies you've been putting off. Give yourself time to relax and sleep in occasionally. Even if you take a couple of weeks to pamper yourself, you will still have the rest of the summer to be productive. Taking time for yourself will ultimately ensure your students have a teacher who is excited for the new year and is ready to teach them.
2. Set a Time to Reflect on the Previous School Year
To prevent yourself from obsessing over the coming school year, schedule a time to reflect on the previous year and think about how you will improve. Keeping a set period before school starts to focus on teaching can free your mind to relax for the rest of the summer, as well as help prevent stress or insomnia that can come from dwelling on it.
When you do end up thinking about the previous school year, ask yourself several questions. What went well, and what could you improve on? Go over your evaluations from last school year and take any advice in them seriously. While reflecting, think about how you teach best and how you can improve yourself.
3. Exercise and Eat Well
Even if you feel exhausted at the end of the school year, try to incorporate some physical activity into your summer break. Always check with your doctor if you haven't exercised regularly to ensure you're healthy enough to start a fitness program. Regular exercise may help to improve your stamina when school starts.
Also, be sure to eat foods that make you feel good and fulfill your nutritional requirements. Talk to a dietician if you need guidance on what a healthy diet looks like for your lifestyle.
4. Reset Good Sleeping Habits
You may have put in too many late nights and gotten up too early sometimes during the school year. Use the summer to reset your sleep schedule. Once you have a healthy sleep regime established, you'll likely:
- Feel alert during the day.
- Have seven to nine hours of sleep each day, either at night or with naps.
- Fall asleep within 15 to 20 minutes of lying down.
- Awaken refreshed.
Get into the habit of going to sleep and waking up at the same time. If you need to adjust your schedule a bit for once school starts, begin a few weeks out and ease into it. That way, you won't have a drastic change all at once, and you can be better rested and ready to welcome your new group of students.
How to Prepare for Teaching in the New School Year
Once you have rested and reset your mind, you can start preparing yourself and your classroom for your students. You'll want to continue your learning and develop the learning space for your students. To help you do that, take a look at these tips.
1. Prepare Your Lessons
Look over your old lesson plans and critically think about which ones worked well and which didn't. Discard those that did not connect with the students and replace them with new lessons. You can find lessons online, in teacher workshops or from your fellow educators, so you don't necessarily need to create them all from scratch.
2. Set up Your Classroom
Set up your classroom to promote learning. The arrangement of your room will depend on the grade level and course you teach. If you teach elementary school, you may want a space for children to gather on a rug, but if you have high schoolers, consider grouping desks for collaborative learning.
Don't forget motivational posters and decorations for your room. You want your new students to feel welcome, and a colorful atmosphere will make the transition into a new class easier for them.
3. Research New Teaching Methods to Engage Your Students
Attend workshops and meetings to learn new teaching methods or lesson ideas. You should never stop looking for inspiration for novel approaches to keep your students engaged. Adopting new methods for your classroom makes teaching the material more interesting for you as well and can help you become a better, more effective teacher.
4. Connect With Other Teachers
Connect with teachers at your school and other schools from around the area. The more you network with your fellow educators, the more ideas you can get from them. Additionally, talking with other teachers gives you the chance to get ideas and feedback from others in the industry. You can inspire and support each other as you prepare for the upcoming year.
5. Find Supplies to Prepare Your Students for the School Year
Depending on where you teach, you may have students who cannot afford all their supplies. Look for discounted supplies and sales during the summer. Even if your students' families can afford supplies, they may forget necessary materials such as pencils, pens and paper. Have a regular stock of these in your classroom to let students use as needed.
You may also consider other items to supply for your students, such as binders, notebooks and planners. These may require the help of your school's parent-teacher organization to fund, but they can make your students a little more excited about the school year.
Help Your Students Prepare With Our Planners
Over summer break, you'll probably spend some time thinking about the students you will have for the upcoming school year. You may even get a roster of who you will have. Don't let these thoughts go to waste. Use the opportunity to invest in ways to help your students succeed academically.
Students today often have packed schedules, and they need to keep up with more than just schoolwork. To ensure they don't forget anything, from sports practices to homework, get your class student planners. You can choose planners based on the grade of the students. Whether your students are elementary, middle school or high school, our planners have layouts and information made specifically for each level to help keep them organized.
While you want to help yourself relax over the summer, you also will want to find ways to help your students. With our student planners, you can give your students a gift on the first day of school that will keep them organized all year long.