Teachers: who are you during summer break?

In many ways, I’m the best version of myself. I’m still a teacher, but I’m a wife, daughter, sister, and friend, too.  I’m a relationship builder. I’m a traveler. I’m someone who prioritizes physical needs like sleep and exercise, as well as cognitive needs like reading, discourse, reflection and goal setting.

I’m always a teacher and a learner, but from August to June the teacher identity tends to take over and suffocate my summer self.

And I don’t think I’m alone. Many of the masterful teachers I know have “two selves,” – a school year, teacher with a capital “T” identity, and a summer identity. During certain parts of the year these two identities work together and complement each other. And at other times, they compete for attention in our schedule.

Looking around the library at our first staff meeting this week I could see teachers in their natural state – their summer selves were on display. Eyes were bright, skin was tanned and toned, smiles were wide and plentiful. Conversation was light, lively and filled with hope.

Sometime around mid-September, maybe earlier or later depending on the school culture, the shininess starts to wear off. The physical and emotional signs of summer begin to disappear.

So, I’m trying something different this year. If I’m a better version of myself in the summer, I must work to bring more of my “summer self” into the school year. My three “new school year resolutions” include:

·      Scheduling A Personal Planning Period: Just as teachers need time to prepare for lessons and evaluate student work, we need this time in our personal lives, too. I’m going to pretend my treadmill and trail dates are a staff meeting; a commitment to myself I’m expected to keep. I don’t want to wait until my next break to break a sweat. After all, that’s where some of my best lesson planning happens.

·      Relationships, Inside & Outside the Classroom: It’s important to get to know our students and colleagues as people outside of the school culture. This year I’m looping with my students, so I will already know most of them as learners on day one. But who are they when they’re not at school? To find out and dig deeper, I’m scheduling home visits to learn more about my students’ families and neighborhoods.  The same is true for our colleagues. Happy hours can be as important as the work that happens during our PLC’s. I’m part of a book club (half teachers, half teachers’ spouses) that meets every six weeks to discuss a different book. The books vary in genre but are always “pleasure reads” not “professional reads,” and a great meal and lighthearted conversation culminate each reading experience. Connecting with other practitioners as people outside of my teacher persona keeps me an energized and enthusiastic reader – just the model I want to be for the reluctant readers in my classroom.

·      Unplug & Lights Out: Most of us work in schools where we can’t snooze the first bell or alter the school day schedule in major ways. But we can shut down our computers, walk away from electronic reminders, and turn the lights out at whatever hour we need to be our best the following day. I’m a better, more patient and attentive teacher when I’m not burned out and exhausted. The thing I love about the first days of school is that everything is fresh. After a break that includes rest and time away from our classrooms, we return ready to do things better.

What if we saw each school day as a clean whiteboard? Share your own ideas about how we can “summer-ize” the school year and stay fresh, well-rested, and well-rounded human beings. Or, add your “new school year resolutions” to this discussion thread. When we take care of ourselves we are also taking care of the students we serve and the colleagues who need us to be at our collaborative best.

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