You’ve made it! Your office or classroom is eerily quite, desks and lockers are clean, and besides the lights emanating from the main office, much of the school is dark and empty…like something out of an RL Stine Goosebumps novel. This must mean only one thing: it’s summer! Cue the music!
Now wait a second. Don’t get too carried away. After all, you’re a lifelong learner, so have you thought much about how you plan to use your summer to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge? Unless you work in a school with a 12-month schedule, it’s likely that as June rolls around you are finally afforded something rare for teachers: extra time. Still, I’ve found that once all the hustle-and-bustle of the school year ends and summer commences, my time can mysteriously drift away if I’m not careful, leaving me only partially recharged and more restless than rested.
I experienced this a few summers ago when I had an 8-week summer break. At the time I was working at an international school in the Philippines, so summer was my chance to return to the US and visit family and friends. What a wonderful perk of the job. Well except 8 weeks can be a lot of time to occupy if you don’t have a plan…and I didn’t have a plan. I ended up spending my summer exercising a lot, taking naps, and tinkering with a few materials for the coming year’s classes, but my work lacked substance and by the end of July I couldn’t take another day of summer vacation. Unfortunately, A few weeks later I was already feeling the grind of school and had little from my summer’s “rejuvenation account” to push me forward.
Since those childless and responsibility-less days of my 20s I’ve learned to be a bit better at managing this time of rest. Of course, now my school leadership job requires me to work in the summer and my evenings and weekends are filled with caring for my family. So how does one find rest and rejuvenate in these scenarios? Here are a few pointers I’ve found helpful along the way:
Tips for A Productive Summer
Establish a routine.
Like it or not, most of us thrive in a routine. In fact, I believe it’s the wacky change in schedule that can confuse our internal clock and diminish our sense of urgency. For educators who are used to being out the door at the crack of dawn, even a slight change to a morning routine can send the rest of the day spiraling. So if you’re used to getting out of the house at 7 am, try to create a new summer routine that does the same, even if it’s for a morning walk. The same goes for the rest of the day.
Set realistic goals.
What is it that you’d like to accomplish this summer? Think about it and articulate it. Now be realistic and remove a few items. If you’re like me, it can be really easy to develop a gigantic and unrealistic list of goals, only to see time tick away and few things getting accomplish. So here are my goals:
- Write 8 blogs (this is the first)
- Develop and write an article for a publication from the work of my doctoral dissertation
- Build a bed frame (that’s right, no joke)
- Read the following 4 books:
Develop a product or deliverable.
For many educators the word deliverable seems a bit alien, but I’ve found it very helpful as a way to help articulate the work to be done over the summer. In fact, if you’ve read World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students by Dr. Yong Zhao, you’re likely familiar with the concept of product-oriented learning, which crudely summarized, places the focus of learning on “creating works that matter.” Or in other words, demonstrating what you’ve learned by developing something like a product, publication, or presentation that will be useful to others. So if you look back at my goals, at least the first three have clear deliverables: blogs, an article, and a bed frame.
If I know anything about setting goals, it is that accountability is important. That’s why I’m publicly sharing my goals, to further demonstrate this point. You could do this by telling one or two people about what you’re planning to accomplish, or make it known to a larger group of people. Here’s a strategy: earlier this year I learned from a 6th grade teacher that before students begin study hall each student would write their name and their goal for that time on a big whiteboard in the class, then when the student completed that task they would return to the board and write a line over their goal, and create a new goal. Not only did this strategy help students articulate their goals, it also surfaced natural partnerships and potential collaboration that might have gone unknown as students worked…plus everyone likes checking off a to-do. Perhaps this strategy could be used in your home, teacher’s lounge, or online.
I believe if you stick to these 4 tips your likely to have a wonderfully productive and restful summer. But beware! As I write this, it’s already June 25, but I started this blog on June 7th. What took me so long? Once again summer is slipping away, so don’t delay and get started.
So what do you think? What are your goals for the summer? Do you need a public place for accountability? Then add your goals or thoughts in the comment section. If you’re new to Learn[ed]Leadership and you like interesting stuff, then make sure to sign up for a free monthly (or so) newsletter by clicking here or in the fancy box to your top right. Or if you want immediate updates, Like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.