Teachers don’t always have additional teaching duties during the summer, but that doesn’t mean that they are not preparing for the coming year. With the kind of year that the 2020-2021 school year was, teachers have a lot to do this summer to shift gears. Some teachers are going back to their buildings, others are planning to change subjects or grade levels. No matter what you taught last year or what you will be teaching next year, one of the most important things a teacher has to do each summer is rekindling the fire for teaching. You can do that with the 3 Rs, reflect, revise, and rejuvenate.
The end of a school year is filled with testing, awards programs, paperwork, and more paperwork. By the last day of school, teachers are ready to walk out of the door and leave it all behind for a little while. But there is a magical time during the summer when a teacher’s focus goes back to the classroom. I want to share with you three things to do once that magic happens for you. The 3 Rs are an opportunity to make sure your fire for teaching is burning hot and you are not only excited to go back, but also, prepared to be the best teacher you can be for your students.
R Number One: Reflect
Take the time to reflect on the previous year. Many things went right and other things that went wrong. By reflecting on the year, you will put the year in perspective and the events become less personal and more of a learning experience. For the things that you think went right, decide on why they went right. Sometimes it was a specific circumstance that made it right or the right people. Ask yourself, how can I make sure this happens again. Just because it went right last year doesn’t mean that it will go the same way again. Next year there will be different students, you may be in a different room, or have more or less help. Identify those criteria that you can control and make plans to keep them in place.
Reflection is a quality way to end the year once you have had time to decompress and can look back with fresh rather than defensive eyes. Some consider reflection a way to self-evaluate. But, reflection should not have the judgmental connotation that evaluation does. Leave evaluation for the administrator, reflection is for the teacher and the students. Use it as self-help rather than a self-evaluation.
Reflection isn’t just for your performance. It is also great to reflect on the relationships you have at school. During a school year, we form many relationships with our coworkers. These relationships can be both positive and negative. The summer is a great opportunity for you to improve or terminate these relationships. During your reflection, there were probably some coworkers who came to mind. Those interactions came to mind because interpersonal relationships have long-lasting effects on your daily life as a teacher. The people you surround yourself with influence your behavior and outlook.
Positive relationships should be your goal. That does not mean that you never have a problem or a disagreement with the other person, but a positive relationship does not cause you unnecessary stress and it is mutually beneficial. Look for the people in the building who are doing the things you want to do. Those people who have been there and done that. They are experts in it and are probably happy to share how it is done. Foster these positive relationships, because they will make you a better teacher and a happier teacher in the end. Your reflections probably lead to you thinking about a weakness you have, well there is someone in your building that has that as a strength. This can be a positive relationship. Choose people who will help you make positive changes to your procedures, lessons, or outlook. All of these make for a better year.
R Number Two: Revise
Now that you have reflected on the past year, it is time to revise and make improvements for next year. For those things that went wrong, the process is the same. Identify what caused the first sign of a problem. Trace the issue to its root. That is where change needs to begin. Try to focus on the things that you have control over. You cannot change what or how the students were taught in the past, you can only control the present. So if the root of the issue is that the students did not come prepared for the level of instruction you have to provide, then you have to address the issue head-on. Maybe you need to begin the year with more spiral reviews of those necessary skills or maybe an assistant can lead a center related to the topic as an introduction to gauge the students working knowledge.
Negative people can bring down all aspects of your day, your attitude, and your teaching. The people with whom you spend the most time set the tone for your day. Think about the relationships that are bringing you down. Are you the only positive person in the group? Sometimes you are surrounding yourself with takers and not enough givers. Relationships need to be a two-way street. Some people never leave their negative state. These people do not offer you anything that you want. Limit your interactions with them.
Be supportive, but be supported. Negative attitudes are contagious; therefore, find people who have what you want to catch. If your child was to attend your school, which teacher’s class would you want them to attend? Those are the people with whom you need to build a working relationship. They have something you want, something you need, and/or something you want to maintain. Surround yourself with these teachers.
R Number Three: Rejuvenate
Teaching is exhausting. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. The summer break is necessary to rejuvenate yourself. That rejuvenation can take many forms and are specific to you as an individual. Now that you have reflected on last year and identified the things that went right and wrong, the people that had an impact on your year, and what you think can be changed for next year, it is time to think about YOU. Take the time this summer to address what you need to rejuvenate your attitude, passion for teaching, or mental health.
Take some time for the things that you like to do outside of school. Do not fixate on next year yet. The summer is an opportunity to do many, many things. Do them. Enjoy your time off. These things will fill your gas tank. Throughout a school year, teachers have their tanks filled by a rewarding day, a goal met, and affirmations from colleagues. But the summer is a time for you to fill your own tank. Reconnect with those friends for whom you were too busy during the year. Read that book you have been hearing about. Go on that vacation. Take a spa day. Stay at home in your pajamas and watch reality TV. Do what works for you and do it without guilt. This is the time to make your family and other relationships outside of school a priority.
Once that tank is full, you will have the energy to focus on next year. Next, you can rejuvenate your classroom environment. Plan your bulletin boards. Try incorporating a theme. Choose something that sparks your interest and that you can tie to your standards throughout the year. Take the opportunity to plan out that unit you wanted to do, but didn’t have the time for last year. During the summer, you have the opportunity to do the necessary research and find the best materials to reach students. You took the time to reflect on what went wrong last year, now take the time to make plans to fix that problem. Planning ahead will kick your school year off on a positive note and will set the tone for the rest of the year.
Finally, rejuvenate yourself professionally. It can be as formal as taking a college class or as informal as professional reading. I have said that you are filling your tank, but rejuvenating yourself professionally will also help you fill your toolbox. Some universities offer abbreviated summer classes and teacher workshops are plentiful during the summer. Find something that makes you excited and get onboard. There is a free website for professional development called edWeb.net. This site is an online community for educators. It offers simple, one-hour activities on a variety of topics related to all aspects of education. These can be done on your own time and requires no commitment from you except one hour at a time. Keeping yourself up to date with the latest trends in education will keep you and your teaching relevant in this ever-changing educational climate.
Summer is a great time to complete these three Rs. Several people think that teachers have the summers off, but they do not realize the need that teachers have for summertime. The need to reflect, revise, and rejuvenate is great. During the school year, teachers do not have the time to truly commit to the three Rs. Take the time now while you can. If you enjoyed this article, another article I suggest is How to Relieve Stress at School During a Pandemic.