Teaching is (in my opinion!) one of the best jobs in the world.
But it can also be draining. Our to-do lists truly never end.
And there are always those “to dos” that I end up saving to become a summer project. But then my SUMMER to-do list fills up!
Sometimes it feels like I have to make a choice between enjoying my summer or doing everything I can to have a smooth start in fall. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
In this post, I’ll share my three Rs for summer vacation — Relax, Reflect, and Renew! You’ll find some tips for tackling your “to do” list and ideas for creating a better work-life balance. You’ll learn how to enjoy your summer and be ready for the new school year too!
Summer vacation is a beautiful thing. It’s an opportunity to relax and recharge the batteries. And let’s face it…those batteries are pretty much depleted by the end of the school year!
So I make self-care my biggest priority during our days off. You deserve to be healthy — physically and mentally. For that to happen, you need to take care of yourself!
There are many ways to practice self-care. Think of things you enjoy doing – and actually DO them! Find a good beach read. Take a walk. Meditate. Work in your garden. Spend time with your family. Get a massage. Catch up on sleep. Cook a healthy meal. Go to a movie. Take a yoga class. Meet a friend for lunch. The possibilities are endless! (As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of a pandemic. So be safe, whatever activities you choose!)
It doesn’t matter what you do, but it matters that you take the time to do it. You can’t fill up someone else’s cup if your own pitcher is empty, and summer is one time when we can fill our “pitchers” to the brim.
If you’re having trouble truly relaxing and letting go of prep for next year, try giving yourself a specific number of weeks where you will NOT think about school (other than any required trainings / events). Set a date on your calendar when you’ll start prepping again, and until that date…enjoy yourself!
Or, here’s another option: Maybe you have scheduled professional development sessions throughout the summer or want to participate in activities like my free summer webinars (dates announced at the beginning of each June). If that’s the case, set specific days throughout the summer when you’re “allowed” to think about next year, and certain days when you’re totally “off duty!”
Once I have a chance to unplug from school and recharge my batteries, I take some time to reflect on the past year. First, I identify and celebrate all the great things that happened during the previous school year.
- What was a huge success?
- What other things went well?
- Why did those things go well?
- Which students blossomed? Why?
Making a list of all the positives and the reasons for those positives helps me identify the “whats” and “whys” of success. I can also turn to this list for inspiration and guidance when I’m planning my summer work.
After I make a list of the positives, I focus on what didn’t go so well.
- What did I struggle with?
- What did my students struggle with?
- Why didn’t some things work well?
- What should change for next year?
Once I have my two lists, I’m able to better chart a course for my work over the summer. Focusing on one or two things helps me strike a balance between relaxing and taking care of myself, and working on things that will help with a smooth start to the new school year.
This last R really encompasses a lot of different Rs – refresh, revamp, restock, replace, restart, reset, reaffirm. You get the idea! One of the great things about teaching is being able to start fresh every school year.
I do try to be realistic and not take on too much. If you set out to completely change what you do for word work, revamp all your learning centers, and get all the learning materials organized for that new math curriculum your district adopted, you’re probably doing too much!
Instead, try to focus on one or two things. My goal for summer work is to do a few things really well and still have time for taking care of myself. This is where my notes from reflecting on the past year come in handy, and help me focus on what’s most important.
If there are items on your “to do” list that just won’t fit this summer, consider making a “brain dump” list for the school year on your phone or computer. Add all your items that you’d like to do, but will not be able to do over the summer, and you can start tackling that list as you have time.
Don’t Forget About Your Personal Life!
I know how busy life can be during the school year. Summer is a great time to apply the three Rs to your personal life, too! Teaching is crazy and stress-inducing enough all on its own. Add in meal planning, child care arrangements, cleaning, laundry and squeezing in a workout, and it’s easy to end up with brain overload.
Putting systems in place to deal with the day-to-day realities of life helps, especially during the school year. Even simple things like coming up with a meal prep plan or a schedule for child care pick up can bring your day-to-day stress level way down.
For example, my husband and I have a system in place for prepping the week’s lunches. Every Sunday, he cooks enough chicken for the week, so we have it to grab for wraps, salads, etc. It’s a small, easy thing to do but it makes life so much easier and I eat much healthier lunches too – a year-round, self-care bonus!
(Please note: This is not my food and mine never looks this pretty. 😂)
So take a bit of time to reflect on and renew your personal life too. Summer gives you some extra mental bandwidth to put a new system in place and work out the kinks while life moves at a slower pace.
By the time school rolls around again, you can have your system down and eliminate a source of stress. Every little bit helps!
Hooray for you!
If the end of the school year is in sight for you, it’s time to celebrate! Think about all the things you have done for your students and their families this year and all the ways that your students have grown!
Now, it’s time to take some time for you!!
Looking to learn something new?
During the summer – and sometimes during the school year – I teach free online workshops (webinars) about various literacy topics.
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