EP22: Summer break always goes by quicker than we imagined, leaving a long list of tasks undone. Learn how to create time for the things that matter most to you in life, and schedule in activities that are energizing for you as a person and as a teacher.
This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is essentially a talk radio show that you can listen to online or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. Learn more about the podcast, view blog posts for all past episodes, or subscribe in iTunes to get new episodes right away.
But summer time rarely seems to live up to its potential and all the hopes we have for what it will be. The days just seem to fly by, and this sense of panic hits mid-way through as you realize you haven’t gotten around to a fraction of things you promised yourself you’d do, and often you haven’t even had time to really relax. The back to school shopping commercials start airing on TV and you realize with a sinking feeling that it’s time to go back to the regular routine. Rather than feeling excited about the fresh start of a new school year and all the cool ideas you’re wanting to try in the classroom, you just feel bleh about the whole thing, like, here we go again.
Let’s talk about how to make sure this summer is different.
This summer can be the one where you make time for the things that matter in your life, you’re productive, AND you have time to relax.
First, make sure you are taking some completely work-free time at some point. Maybe you need to teach summer school and can only schedule in a couple of days without thinking about teaching. That’s certainly better than nothing —and actually, if you’re teaching in the summer, that makes it even more important to have school-free time.
Some teachers take an entire week or two to decompress and enjoy their families, others an entire month. Choose what works best for you, but write VACATION: NO WORK into your schedule and stick to that! I mean no looking for cute ideas on Pinterest, no reading teaching books or blogs, nothing.
You’ve got to create mental space to distance yourself from thinking about teaching. And when you do that, I think you’ll find your best ideas come to you. Often during my no-work periods, I get so inspired just out of the blue with all these amazing ideas my mind was too cluttered to come up with during my daily routines. There’s something about taking the pressure off and allowing your mind to wander to other things that make your focused work time that much more effective. So I write down the thought that came to mind so I don’t forget, and then force myself to refocus on relaxing.
You can do the same. Take a true vacation time. Go somewhere with your family if possible and create some memories together. Make time for things you enjoy.
And don’t just SAY you’re going to do it: plan for it. Most of us have about 7-8 weeks off, and that sounds like a really long time, but it really, really flies by. You end spending a week working in your classroom, two weeks doing home repairs, a week schlepping the family around to doctors appointments, and suddenly all your relaxation time has disappeared.
If you don’t plan well for how you’re going to use your time, it’s going to slip by before you know it.
Start by making a plan for each week that you’re off using a calendar or even just a list of each week. Write or type in any non-negotiable appointments or engagements, but after that, you should write in your relaxation and vacation time. Make sure you get that in. It’s really, really critical.
You’ll also want to schedule in things that energize you as a teacher, and energize you as a person. Summer is the time for hobbies that you don’t have time for during the year, so if there are books you want to read and so on, start daydreaming about that now. It’s a lot of fun and gives you something to look forward to. Think about the people you want to see, the TV shows you want to catch up on, the restaurants you want to eat at —whatever it is, and make a list.
It needs to be a manageable list—you don’t want to overschedule yourself and get stressed out, and you can’t fit a year’s worth of fun into a month. But write it out so you don’t get halfway through the summer and realize you’re not going to have time for something you really wanted to do.
Now here’s the important part —don’t leave everything in the list. You have to move each item from the list to your schedule or calendar. Look at everything you need and want to do, and decide how to plan it out. You might decide:
This week, I’m going to get in some pool time, and I”m going to read this book. Then the next week, I’m going to make some time to watch a movie with my husband at home. I’m not going to feel guilty about it and worry about all the things I should be doing, because it’s in my schedule. It’s one of the things I planned to do this summer, on this day or within this week, and I’m going to enjoy it.
If you want to get together with some friends you never see, contact them now, and set up a date. Schedule it in. Don’t wait until the end of July to start texting people when everyone’s already super busy. Carve out time for your priorities.
Now whether you go back to school early to work in your classroom or not is up to you. Personally, I recommend it. Those pre-work days are some of the most productive for me all year because no one’s around to interrupt me. I’d much rather work for free one or two days in the summer and feel like I have a head start on the school year than to cling to my right to not work in the summer and get super overwhelmed during the official planning days.
In fact, I always liked to go into school one or two days early, and also do some unit lesson planning throughout the summer.
It’s amazing how much less stressful the school year is when you’ve done some of the deep thinking and planning over the summer when you’re not rushed or distracted.
Summer, for me, is a great time to get center materials together and find new teaching ideas. It allows me to work shorter hours during the school year, and it also gets me excited about going to back to school because I have fun, new ideas to try.
I encourage you to use at least part of your time in the summer to do things that energize you as a teacher. Run a Google or Pinterest search on an aspect of your classroom that didn’t go as well as you’d have liked, and get some new solutions from other teachers. Dig through all the posts you missed during the school year from your favorite blogs. Participate in some Twitter chats or Facebook groups for teachers or follow teacher hashtags on Instagram. See what other teachers are gearing up to do in the fall, and let them inspire you to bring new ideas back to your own classroom.
You can also participate in online book clubs or courses for summer 2016.
The first is the Unshakeable book club. It’s for the book I just released called Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day…No Matter What. We’ll be exploring the 20 ways in 20 days: the study is going to run from July 17-Aug 5. It’s going to be a casual, fun format–we’re doing the whole thing in a private Facebook group.
The other online book club I’ll be running this summer is the Awakened Devotional Bible Study for Christian Teachers. This will be the third summer in a row that I’ll be offering this, and we have many teachers who come back and participate every time. It’s pretty amazing. Previously I ran the the studies in a private WordPress blog, but I’m moving this study over to Facebook, too, where it is easier to add people, to post, to comment, and interact in general. This study will run in June. I will warn you: it’s deep. This study is about transformational change at the spiritual level, and that takes work. But the teachers who really commit to the Bible study have experienced incredible results in just that one month, and many of them shared how the books helped them keep their enthusiasm for teaching all throughout the school year. So, if you’re a Christian teacher, I hope you’ll join us. Learn more and sign up here for the Awakened Devotional Bible Study for Christian Teachers.
Don’t approach your summer break aimlessly. Approach it will intention. Start your summer with a clear sense what’s most important in your life, and plan to prioritize those things. Make the most of every single moment.Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant... --Louisa May Alcott Click To Tweet
Next week: How to share your teaching expertise and get paid for it