Summer…ahhhh…the time most teachers catch up on doctor’s appointments, shopping, and all the myriad errands and chores that go by the wayside during the hectic school year. I’m sharing 11 things every teacher should do this summer to help it be a recharge, refresh, and also effective preparation for the year to come.
1. Refresh yourself physically.
Summer is a chance to get into the good physical habits that will give you the stamina you need to teach. Teaching is a spectacularly physically demanding profession. Get in the habits this summer that will serve you well once school begins again. Consider exercise, meal planning and prep, and checkups with your fave doctor. If you establish the habits in the summer, it may be easier to keep them going once school starts than it is to start them then.
It’s possible you’ve been living on love…and caffeine and massive infusions of dark chocolate. Consider adding some other food groups.
Be sure to include lots of outdoor time to make up for the hours spent in climate control during the school year!
2. Establish healthy sleep habits.
We undermine ourselves when we completely adjust our sleep patterns for months out of the year. The temptation is nearly overpowering, but we will serve ourselves much better if we maintain reasonable sleep habits and patterns.
We know how hard it is for our students whose parents allow them to stay up until all hours and then sleep all day when that bell rings come August. We’re no different. Get into healthy sleep habits and keep them up.
3. Prep your classroom.
While it’s rare to have summer-long access to your classroom, there are a million (okay maybe not a million, but a lot!) of things you can do during the summer to get your classroom ready come fall. This is important because for some reason, we’re never allowed any time in our rooms once we get back to school. Who made that decision???
Here are some things you can do now to get a head start for fall:
- prep your bulletin boards for the year.
- revise signage
- make a list of what needs to be done when you get there, prioritizing the list and estimating how much time each item will take
- purchase the supplies you want and prep them (label, sharpen, sort, etc.)
- discard damaged items or things you know you won’t use again
- use Classroom Architect to plan out your classroom layout (consider creating a few different options in case you want flexibility or in case your first choice doesn’t actually work in 3D)
- laminate (and cut it out…think Netflix marathons)
4. Prep your lessons.
This is obvious, but it often gets ahead of us. One year, I decided to fully plan one day per week for the whole year, along with five sub plans that would work on any day. It saved me! I often have individual lesson or unit plans ready to go, but having the whole day planned is a little different. It includes when I’m going to grade, as well as other secret teacher things.
Get your fave lesson plan book all ready and take a little time to look at what you need to do. Are there any lessons you know need revision? Any that you know need to never again see the light of day?
Reach out on social media and offer to share with others. Others will share with you. Crowdsourcing great lessons is one of the redeeming qualities of social media.
Be sure to plan out a bunch (and by “bunch,” I mean 50,000) little short activities for the start of lessons and the after-work-is-finished time. I use Mindware free samples for a lot of this. They have them for lots of their books.
5. Make your wishlist.
What should the Amazon fairy bring you for your classroom? You may not get the things, but if you have a list, you will be ready should someone ask.
Hey, it could happen. I routinely get markers and other cool teacher stuff for gifts from people who really know what moves me. The only bouquets I really love are made of Sharpies.
Consider some cool things like chalkboard markers, overlays for reading, seat back pockets, great pens, cute bins or notebooks, a quality pencil sharpener, or any other fab tool that would make your like easier or more fun.
As many of you know, I pretty much became a teacher because I like office supplies, so this one is always my favorite thing to do.
6. Make the most of your PD opportunities.
While many (wrong) people think that teachers’ summers are a non-stop halcyon-skied vacation at Club Med-like resorts, most teachers I know spend many days of summer in professional development. That’s because teaching is…wait for it…a profession.
Rather than resenting PD, embrace it. Go into every session with an open mind. Consider:
- What could I learn from this?
- If I can’t use it, can someone else?
- What is my biggest takeaway?
- What can I learn from negative example? (What is something I noticed I definitely DON’T want to do?)
- What needs to happen to adapt this to my content area/grade level?
Be sure to keep a good record of your PD because I could write a book about lost certificates/hours and the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth that went along with it. You can track it on the PD record I have on my Free Downloads page.
7. Create a grading survival kit.
Friends, grading is the nemesis of many a teacher. I loved, absolutely loved, Dave Stuart’s series on this (start here). I love a little grading kit to help me be effective and also happy. Consider stocking up on the darkest chocolate, creating a play list, cool pens, stickers, post its, a clipboard, and any of those little things that will see you through marathon grading sessions.
We who are about to grade salute you.
8. Invest in one tech upgrade.
My first suggestion would be good cloud storage if you don’t have it already. If you’re a Google person, obviously your Drive is a great place. If not, there’s always Dropbox and (what I use) OneDrive. Set it up to synch, and consider having an external hard drive with everything there, too. Your documents are your product, and you need a little redundancy in the system if you want to avert disaster. #voiceofexperience
Another techy thing is to digitize any documents that you only have print copies of. Yes, that means retyping. If you aren’t super quick at typing (shout out to my typing teacher at Jefferson Junior High in Oceanside, CA, who taught me to type like Speed Racer) or have more money than time, consider using Fiverr or Upwork to find someone to do it for you. If you have more money than time, I’m envious.
You may wish to take the plunge to upgrade a service you love or invest in one you’ve wanted to try. My current fave is Bingo Baker. It’s the best $15 I ever spent.
9. Check ye olde wardrobe.
Make sure your clothes are ready. It’s a small thing, but not having to worry about what you’re going to wear every day is liberating. You can create a mock uniform with capsule wardrobes or other plans, but I mostly mean that you should know what clothes are for school, have good, comfy shoes, and decide if you need anything else in order to start the year.
You may wish to set aside a couple of outfits for “those days” that lurk in the back of the closet and are ready at a moment’s notice to be ready to go.
I love personally love The Vivienne Files for ideas.
10. Do an audit.
- How will you handle bathroom visits. Do you need a new pass?
- How are you going to handle filing? Do you need new labels, folders, or an entirely new plan?
- Does your discipline plan need revising?
- Do you need to adjust or create your newsletters or emails to/from parents? Could you use some autoresponders? Could you create a template for your newsletters?
- Are you ready for early finishers?
- Is your homework policy working for you?
- Where do students turn in work? Collect graded work?
- Do you want to have a teacher website or revamp the one you’ve got?
- Is your make up work process working for you?
- Will you allow food/beverages? How will that work?
- Where do kids put their stuff?
- How will you handle pencil sharpening requests?
- Do you need a better way to handle the papers you need to grade?
- What’s the deal with the library? Do you need a system for library books out of the school or classroom library? Do you need more materials for your classroom library?
- Do you have the procedures you need for lining up to go to lunch or just to leave at the end of class or the day?
- What will you do to manage email, especially angry parent email?
- Any thoughts about how you might want to handle parent conferences?
11. Prepare emotionally.
Teaching is the best job in the world, and it is also exhausting emotionally. This summer, recharge your emotional battery deliberately. Just not doing anything won’t accomplish that. You need to be intentional about it.
Read books you’ve wanted to read that aren’t even remotely related to education.
Think about whether your friends at school really are the best choice for you. Are you surrounding yourself with positive people, or are they Debbie Downers? Consider building some new friendships over the summer if you need to branch out.
- date nights with your spouse/children/friends/parents
Start or keep up a journal. Spend some time reflecting about what is draining your energy. Can he/she/it be eliminated or reduced?
Everyone recharges differently, so your list may be different and include other things like travel or quality time with Starbucks.
Things Every Teacher Should Do This Summer
Those are my 11 things I think every teacher should do this summer. I’ll end with this:
I sincerely wish you the best of summers and a coming school year full of wonder and delight. If no one has told you lately, may I be the one to remind you that you are an amazing gift to the future and are vitally important to our nation and the goodness in the world?
Thank you for choosing to be a teacher. Thank you for choosing it every day.