Reviving and thriving this summer

Summer’s not over yet! Read these five tips for reviving your passion and refining your craft.

Congratulations, soldier. You survived another school year. Hopefully you’ve spent some time this summer licking your wounds, decompressing, reflecting, and refueling.

My astronomical sign is Libra — the scales. So I seek balance. Below are some strategies for finding ways to delve deeper into your craft as you enjoy what remains of summer.

1. Disrupt your schedule. Many call the teacher schedule “crazy” — I can attest. Work, work, and work some more. Working after contract hours, at home, and on vacation.

But it’s important to spend time getting away from it all. This disruption from the normal “go, go, go” is a disguise for a very real, very necessary part of ending your school year: processing.

Processing runs in our veins. It allows us to move on, overcome, and look at our lives with fresh eyes. Take a moment to write a few things from the school year down:

2. Measure your school year by extremes. List specifics that went well. For example: implementing Common Core curriculum, project management, re-teaching, or communicating with parents.

Once a firm list of bullets are in order, dig a little deeper. Add extra details about why they were successful. Being concrete about your successes helps you stay balanced when you think about things that didn’t go well. Revisit this list before the school year starts up again, and make sure you have those successes in your back pocket, ready to inspire you.

Remember: refining your craft means fine-tuning the successes and rehabbing the failures.

Speaking of failures… Things often seem to go wrong more than right in teaching. But that’s ok. By listing out what you didn’t like about your teaching (pacing, behavior management, etc.) you now have a powerful list of to-dos. Plan ways to improve each area. This can either be a simple, “spend an extra 15 minutes lesson planning,” or a hard look at why things went awry.

But be light about what didn’t work. Be honest, and let go of the frustrations from the year.

3. Stay current, using the web. Don’t underestimate the power of the Internet to serve your professional development. Don’t wait for scheduled trainings during the year; your muse is just a click away.

I’ve stolen my fair share of lesson materials from the Internet. But when I read articles, I feel I’m taking my edification to the next level and nourishing my creative tendencies—which is a gift that all teachers possess.

Check out some of these resources:

  • Edutopia (@edutopia): Editorials on topics like assessment, STEM, global education, and my favorite: educational trends.
  • Te@chthought (@teachthought): Tech heavy with categories like: Hashtags, iPad, App Marketplace, and a general Technology section.
  • Theeducatorsroom (@educatorsroom): Developed, written, and sustained by teachers or retired teachers. Sections include: Teacher Branding, The State of Education, Book Reviews, Curriculum, and in the unfortunate situation— The Unemployed Teacher.

Keep a cache of articles and organize them by content or purpose. For example: practical, innovative, and content related. I keep a list of links to articles organized by these headings saved on my computer.

You can also share articles with your principal, professional development coach, and co-workers. It’s important to share them with people who have the greatest potential to influence change. You’ll be looked at as a thought leader, and you and your ideas will be taken more seriously.

I cannot overestimate the importance of keeping new ideas flowing in and out—particularly flowing out. Seth Godin, a masterful businessman and marketer, has discussed the importance of “shipping” our ideas. Get them ready enough, and get ’em out. And do it frequently.

Be the change you want to see in your school and your district. Our educational structure has been the same for far too long. It takes ideas—lots of them— inside and outside of the box.

4. Document your experiences. Students love to learn about “non-teacher” you. They love hearing your personal stories. Better yet—they remember them. Be strategic about having stories to pull from during the school year and write down interesting experiences you have over the summer. Heck, use this task as a reason to get out there and starting having them!

Carry a travel-sized notebook around with you. Write headings for each area you teach, and write down your experiences to match each content area.

Be as specific as you want. Perhaps you have a particular unit of study or project in mind. Revive your lessons with that signature teacher anecdote.

5. Restate your intention. Before you jump back into the fray, remind yourself why. Why you work so hard and get close to extinguishing your flame. Why you, a person of passion, have decided to aid in the very necessary quest of knowledge discovery.

The act/art of teaching is no joke. You cannot float on—there is too much at stake. So re-up your passion and take some serious moments of honest reflection before you latch down the safety bar on next year’s roller-coaster.

Have a summer routine you’d like to share?

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  • JulieHiltz

    Reconnect with your first name


    Love the points you’ve made about processing your school year. That’s something that I know my close colleagues and I are not that good at doing. I can usually tell you all that went well and I want to change about last year and what I want to do this year but taking time to really think about what I’ve done and understand those processes are part of the larger whole is something I will make an effort to do this summer.

    The only thing I would add is that teachers should be sure to spend some summer time remembering who they are outside of being a teacher. I schedule time (don’t laugh) for guilt-free reading of non-eduction fiction and pursing other hobbies that I enjoy. I also spend time with family and friends and INSIST that they call me Julie, not Mrs Hiltz. It is still amazing to me how grounding and refreshing the sound of my first name is to me after a long school year.

    • BrettBohstedt

      Nail on the Head

      You’re so right. Getting far away from the teaching routine is paramount. I had intented to include a large portion of that sort of thing. I have tons of hobbies, and over the summer I surely give each a fair amount of time. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and thanks for the read!