When the final bell before summer break rings, your students jump out of their seats and race to the classroom door. "Goodbye!" they shout. "Thanks for everything! Have a great summer!" And then they're gone. Your classroom is suddenly quiet. Your desk is sprinkled with cards and small gifts. You see a red ceramic apple beside a framed picture of a puppy with the words, "You're the greatest!" There is a glass jar with M&M's, a bottle of hand lotion, and several gift cards to local restaurants from thoughtful parents.
Here are a few ways to make the most of the break.
Embrace Relaxation and Self - Care
Now that you're out of the classroom, you can take some time for yourself. Maybe the first thing on your summer agenda is travel—a family vacation, a trip to visit relatives, or hiking alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe you just want to stay home and spend time with your kids. Or maybe you just want to do nothing. Personally, I find it therapeutic to thoroughly clean the house—throwing out magazines from months ago, watering thirsty plants, and going through closets and weeding out clothes no one wears anymore—but I know that wouldn't be everyone's first choice.
One of the important tips when it comes to self-care is to slow down, and summer is a perfect time to dial it back. In a Psychology Today article, Sam Boardman, a psychiatrist, says, "In the morning I deliberately walk slower than my usual frantic pace, put my phone away, and take time to look around and enjoy the moment rather than worrying about the day ahead." Other activities, like doing yoga, cooking a delicious meal, or playing with pets, can help restore a sense of well-being. Dr. Mindy Greenstein offers some practical advice about self-care in the same article: "If I'm feeling down and don't feel like doing anything, my mantra is, 'If I can't be happy today, I can at least be useful.'" Greenstein adds that being useful actually improves her attitude and gets her moving in the right direction.
Reflect on the Past Year
Putting a little distance between you and school gives you a chance to reflect objectively on the past year. What went really well? What lessons or activities need to be tweaked? What ideas need to be tossed? If you surveyed your students at the end of the school year, you'll have some important feedback to use as you plan for next year.
Besides reflecting on your academic life, you may want to take some time to review your personal life as well. Self-care shouldn't be a priority only in the summertime, but it's easy to forget about yourself when you have so many other responsibilities during the school year. Summer is a good time to think about how the past year went. For example, did you set aside time for daily exercise? Did you eat a healthy diet or were you often picking up fast food on the way home? Did you maintain a social life and spend time with those you care about? Did you get enough sleep? If you're not satisfied with your answers, then start improving in those areas now!
Retool Your Approach for Next Year
Summer is also a great time to reinforce your knowledge and skills with professional developments. Talking with colleagues from other schools is invigorating and even illuminating when you compare notes and discover new techniques. Some districts even offer paid curriculum work during the summer. This is a win-win because you can influence what kids learn and earn summer income at the same time (which is always good)!