Reflect on the past year
As soon as you can after the last student has left your classroom, dedicate some time to thinking constructively about this last school year. This will accomplish two goals: It will help you to “debrief” the school year, and it will give you some ideas about what you want to change for next year. Ask yourself, What went well? What didn’t? What would you change? Go a little deeper by using this set of 20 Reflection Questions for Teachers. As you are going through your questions, be sure to write your thoughts down.
If you have had a particularly challenging year, do what you can to let go of anger, resentment, hurt feelings, and other negative emotions. You may need to ask for help from loved ones, friends, or even a professional counselor. I really believe in the expression, “Hurt people, hurt people.” While that may not be true in every case (we all know of incredibly compassionate and giving people who have endured horrible circumstances, but they tend to be in the minority), as a teacher, you owe it to yourself and your students not to be a “hurt person.”
Forget the past year (at least for a while)
Once you have reflected on the year (and packed up your classroom and tied up whatever other loose ends you need to), banish teaching from your mind. Some of you may only be able to do this for a few days, while others can go for most of the summer without the faces of past students floating through your mind or without fighting the urge to start setting up your classroom. Try to spend at least a few weeks putting your energy into things that are not in any way teaching-related. Don’t plan next year, don’t laminate anything, don’t study up on Common Core, and don’t read educational blogs like this one (though finishing this particular article isn’t a bad idea.)
Instead, do things you love. Spend time with friends, ride your bike, go hiking, travel, garden, go to the beach, make cookies, learn to scuba dive, go to the spa, go shopping, whatever. Just as long as it has nothing to do with you teaching anything.
Go garage sailing
Once your mind, body, and spirit are refreshed and you are ready to start thinking about the school year again, a nice way to ease into it is by going to garage sales to find cool stuff for your classroom. If you are into DIY, then garage sales can be treasure troves for materials. Even if you’re not, you are likely to find games, books, and maybe even some decorations for your classroom.
Those DIY projects are a great way to start thinking about school again. They are usually low-stress and sometimes allow you to be creative. Take a peek at Pinterest for inspiration. Create something fun and cute for your classroom before you really dig into planning and setting up.
Catch up on your reading
Another way to ease back into the school year is to read some of those professional development books that you’ve been too busy to read during the school year. Take ’em to the beach and read in the sun. Here are some suggestions (click on the image to go to Amazon):
Now that you have had time to relax and to ease back into the idea that you will soon be confronted with a brand new class of students, it’s time to set some goals for the school year. Get out your reflections on last year that you wrote earlier in the summer, and think about some of those professional development books you just read. Make a few goals…not a huge list – you don’t want to be overwhelmed, but just a few really good ones for positive changes you want to make in your teaching career. Be sure to outline a plan for success.
Shake it up
Related to goal setting, try to come up with at least one thing to do differently this year. It could be as small as changing how you do your classroom jobs or trying task cards for the first time, or as big as digging into close reading or revamping the way you teach math. Make it something you are truly excited about. Novelty keeps things fresh for you and your students.
Plan for stress
Finally, teaching is one of the more stressful jobs out there. You are required to accomplish a great deal and are often given few resources and not nearly enough time to do it. Further, you must juggle the needs of your students, parents, and administrations. And there is also the sheer importance of what you do: educating the next generation. Of course you are going to be stressed. Stress takes a big toll not only on your health and well-being but also on those around you, so make a plan.
When you are stressed to your limit, what can bring your stress level down? It could be as simple as a hot bath, but it may take a little more planning. Maybe you need to commit to an exercise program or cut down on your sugar consumption (that helps me a great deal). Would learning to meditate help? What about a weekly girls’ night out or date with your sweetie? Think in terms of what would make your life easier on a daily basis, too. Can you afford a house cleaner? Would investing in really good shoes make a difference? Can you spend some time now training your kids to take on more of the household chores? Brainstorm a list of de-stressers that work for you. Pick the ones that give you the most bang for your buck and put them into action.
While you might not do everything on this list, I hope it gave you some things to think about. If you have more to add, please comment.
Looking for ideas once the school year has actually begun? Check out this collection of teaching tips: