A Summer Checklist for Teachers: Take Time to Unwind

Download the summer checklist for teachers as a PDF.

To know me is to know that I think and speak in music. The music inspiring this post? Will Smith’s song with a calming lyric surrounded by a solstice beat: “Summer, summer, summertime. Time to sit back and unwind.” 

I completely get it. The “sitting back” may not be possible for the entire summer break because (also similar to me) you may have a summer job lined up for the bulk of the time off; however, unwinding is important to plan! As I focused on in my last post, self-care is not selfish. Rather, it’s extremely necessary whether you have already turned off your classroom lights, are anticipating the summer “to do” list, or are in the midst of the school year exit checklist.

Oh, and for those who are packing up to move your classroom for the second year in a row, I get it. Your end of year has an added emotional journey—whether you are thrilled that the move lands you a larger room or overwhelmed because finding friends to help you lug books is not easy. You need to account for these feelings in your exit plan.

To get to the unwinding, close out the school year with reflection and a personal summer checklist—I’ve compiled one (below) you can use based on my more than two decades working as a teacher. (To fully embrace the recommendations in this post, I encourage you to read this blog with DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince playing in the background.)

FEATURED RESOURCE: Download the summer checklist for teachers.

“Drums, Please”: Take Time to Reflect

Kick off the summer by placing a firm mental checkmark next to the 2018–2019 school year in your mind. The checkmark should symbolize an affirmation of pride, joy, and worth. Take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishments.

There’s a group of 17 dedicated teachers in Effingham County Schools, Georgia, who have been inspiring me all year. During our final professional learning session together, my co-presenter Brandon Shivers and I asked them to "free write" for a minute and focus their thoughts on what they are the proudest of from the past year. I was so thrilled to see pens to paper and each teacher giving him or herself this "me" time to reflect. Each used one of the following sentence starters:

  • Wow, I am so proud that I…
  • My heart is overjoyed because…
  • I am so thrilled that I was able to contribute to…

The goal of this reflection of affirmation was designed to give each teacher his or her own moment—an opportunity to share this personal pride in a room filled with hearts that get it and minds that appreciate the chance to hear from peers to inspire next steps. My mentor, Dr. Rose Taylor, always gave us a chance to listen to each other’s magnificent moments so that we would receive applause, become more aware of our peers’ strengths, and inspire other’s ideas for personal growth. Self-care that begins with reflection and affirmation always leads to Next and more Can’s.

“Just a Break From the Norm”: Relax and Unwind

On the first day off, SLEEP IN! Become your personal barista. Make coffee and sip it in your favorite coffee cup. Put away the travel mug that always kept the hot liquid in the cup as you flew out the door with your bookbag on your shoulder. Stop the memories of frustration and guilt when you hit snooze one too many times and knew you were going to need to rely on teacher lounge brew.

Let it go. Take a day to relax, catch up on Netflix, or sit by the pool, lake, beach, or your porch. Regardless of the locale, escape from thinking about anything work related on the first day of summer break. If you want a couple of recommended shows from my view list: Umbrella AcademyWine Country, and Nailed It. The last show is one that I watch not only for the one-liners but also for the inspiration from others who can simply try something without the frustration of not getting it "perfect." Summertime is about remembering to be in a cycle of process, not perfect. The only outcome you’re responsible for over the summer is finding time to unwind. Begin with thinking outside the box—or better yet, outside the four classroom walls.

“A Little Bit Out of Control It’s Cool to Dance”: Have Some Fun!

Go ahead and give yourself permission to not get to everything and to have a day here and there to abandon the list. I always find that releasing guilt allows me to actually check more items off the list because I gave myself the needed break. There are days when I do not want to think about how many days are left before back-to-school season. I have a life rule that I’m striving to teach my daughter—vacations are earned yet needed. Therefore, as soon as we get to our vacation destination, we are not allowed to ask on day one or day two, “When do we leave?” I want us to not be reckless with our abandonment, but I do want us to let go and take in the new sounds. 

“The Way People Respond to Summer Madness”: Consider Your Professional Goals

I live in the city known for being a magical place on earth: Orlando, Florida. I get to see quite a few different approaches to summer madness all year long, but beginning in June, it does kick up a notch or two (or 10). I’ve taken a chance to observe people simply loving being with their families, finally getting to Orlando, beginning a trip of a lifetime, and pulling out their itineraries to know where to meet their shuttle.

Summer can be full of madness, but the days are what we make of them. After we have simply relaxed, taken time for ourselves, and let go, then there is time within the summer to think about our professional goals. No one wants to go running into the next school year without contributing to their professional growth. So, make sure during these eight weeks away that you:

  • Add to your online #PNL.
  • Find a new #EdChat on Twitter.
  • Check out recommended professional learning resources.
  • Pair a personal read with a professional read. (Remember, not all reading has to be a book or in print.)
  • Get together with a friend and laugh about something that happened in the last school year.
  • Discuss with your teacher BFF how you want to grow.

Ultimately summer gives us a chance to expand our networks, explore pedagogy and ideas, create or refine practices, and unwind with friends so that we have the energy needed for a new school year.

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