How do you really feel on the last day of school? Exhausted? Burned out? Like there’s never an end to the worry and stress?
During the school year there was a long list of stressors: standardized testing, new curriculum, difficult student issues, school politics and budget cuts. Did any parent or administrator say “thank you?” Did you ever just stop, even for a minute?
What can you do to reflect sensibly on a tough year, rejuvenate and then get ready for another year? It is easy to say that a school year was just “too hard,” “too long” or “too rough.” However, we shouldn’t look at the whole school year as one big entity and evaluate it in just a word or two.
Now that it’s summer, let’s look at things to do that will help you reflect purposefully on the past school year and rejuvenate you for next one. The best advice about reflection and rejuvenation is that less is more.
This article is divided into three short parts, which, in turn, have their own three parts. As you read, think about implementing these strategies, and remember to limit yourself to “threes.”
Step 1: Reflections on last school year
1. What was the biggest success I experienced with a single student? Although it is easy to dwell on the problems, reflect on a student’s success. Did you help a non-reader learn to read? Did you help a high school student stay in school? While reflecting on this student, ask yourself how to replicate the success with another student.
2. What was the most successful unit or lesson that I taught? Once you have identified the successful unit or lesson, analyze why it was successful so you can build on this success in the future.
3. What part of the school year gave me the biggest joy? As a teacher, it is important to keep things in perspective; remembering the fun moments, the students’ triumphs and your “aha” moments will bring you joy.
Step 2: Rejuvenate by taking care of yourself this summer
1. What can I do for myself every single day? This summer, find something simple to do for yourself every single day. For some, it’s sleeping an extra hour a day; for others it’s taking a 30-minute walk. Whatever lessens your stress, give yourself the time to do it.
2. What can I do for myself once a week? Next, think about a nice thing to do for yourself once a week. In the summer, you may have time to go out for coffee by yourself at least once a week.
3. What one thing can I do for a complete retreat or respite this summer? Teaching is stressful, and we have to recharge our batteries. Try not to allow your summer to fill up with too many duties or volunteer work for others. Make time for yourself, even away from family, if that’s what it takes.
Step 3: Ways to get ready for the school year
1. What have I put off reading this year? Read one book or a series of websites or articles about an area of teaching where you want to improve. Some teachers say they won’t give up vacation time for work, but a little preparation over the summer goes a long way to lower stress during the school year.
2. Is there a worthwhile workshop or conference that I could attend? Choose a workshop or conference that really interests you, then pick one in a fun location. This might be your getaway without the family. When finances are an issue, you might want to choose a museum or historical site close to home to visit for teaching ideas.
3. What is one new thing I would like to prepare before school starts? This might be as simple as reading one textbook or creating one bulletin board. Don’t go overboard and try to make everything new. Instead, take your time to prepare one thing well.
There is an old saying that goes, “A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.” Some of our best ideas can arrive when we get away completely from our regular routine.
In keeping with the idea of “threes,” consider these final three suggestions for reflection, rejuvenation and readiness for next year:
1. Allow yourself time to rest this summer.
2. Change your routine in healthful, stimulating ways, even if the changes are small.
3. Keep a small list or notebook of positive thoughts and ideas for the future.
And, of course, enjoy the summer!