Summer Planning for Teachers: Finding the Right Balance

by Justin Birckbichler

Many people say that teachers “get the summers off.” I find this to be false. Many educators will use their summer for professional growth rather than treating it like a three month vacation. But we all need time for rest and relaxation. The question is: how do we find the right balance between personal and professional growth over the summer months?

Summer Planning

Professional growth idea: consider a short trip to a teaching conference that interests you. (Maglara/Shutterstock)

 

Summer Professional Development Ideas

I personally have spent my summer learning and growing, and have benefited from a variety of different experiences. During past summers, I’ve attended and presented at various teaching conferences, including delivering the opening keynote at one. There are always plenty of EdTechTeam Summits occurring over the summer – I know of at least two within driving distance from me. See which are nearby you and consider making a trip of it!

As many of you know, ISTE is one of the biggest ed-tech conferences of the year and it takes place in the middle of summer in late June or early July. According to their statistics, over 19,500 various educators attended the 2016 conference. This goes to prove that summer is spent learning by a large number of teachers, and this doesn’t even include the #NotAtISTE2016 crowd! (Which I was a part of!)

Some summers have been spent teaching summer school. I find this to be a highly rewarding experience and enjoy using the summer school class for piloting new ideas. If it goes well, it becomes part of my repertoire for use during my regular school year.

Summer is also a great time to further your education. I spent two summers working on my Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction through Western Governors University online. It took up a large chunk of my summers, but it was well worth it to be able to focus on teaching during the school year.

My summer is also used for looking back at old lessons, activities, and assessments and tweaking them for the future. What worked well? What needs improvement? Which of my state standards are being modified? By using the time in the summer to make changes, I can focus on creating powerful and engaging lessons, without the deadlines of grading, parent and administration conferences, and other things looming over me.

 

Summer Personal Growth

While much of summer can be used for professional growth, it’s also important to remember that you are also a person, and you deserve a non-education related break, just like our students. So, make sure to take some time off. I make sure I pencil in time to solely focus on me, with no education tasks on my docket.  Surprisingly, I often find the most inspiration for my teaching career when I’m completely checked out of it.

Summer Reading

Make sure to take some time off! Surprisingly, I find teaching inspiration in the moments I’m totally checked out. (By Dasha Petrenko/Shutterstock)

 

What do I do on these days that are solely for me? First and foremost, I relax and do things I enjoy doing, but never seem to have the time for during the year. I grill, lay outside in my hammock, read for pleasure, and catch the latest Marvel movie. (I highly recommend Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 if you haven’t seen it yet.) I enjoy playing outdoor games, especially KanJam and cornhole. My love of cornhole has helped me to develop a new review game I call Cutthroat Cornhole - a combination of Cutthroat Kitchen and Cornhole. Try as we might, a teacher’s mind is never turned off! 

I also try to fit in true vacation time when I can. This summer, I am getting married and we will be taking a two-week long honeymoon to Hawaii. Usually, I do not take this much time to travel, but after battling with cancer this year, I think it’s well worth it. Your vacations don’t have to be extravagant adventures – explore a local museum, hike a nearby mountain, or take a quick weekend trip down to the beach.

Bottom line: Unplug. Unwind. Relax. Read for pleasure. See a movie. Go to the beach. As educators, it’s hard to fully let go and do “nothing.” You owe it to yourself. You’ve worked hard, reward yourself. Plus, if you don’t take the time to recharge, you can’t hit the ground running for the next year.

So what was I trying to convey in this post? It’s all about balance. Balance has been something that I’ve been working on for my entire teaching career. I want to be a top-notch teacher, but at this point in my life, I also have to make time to support my personal life, my growing family, and time to unwind. You have to put some planning into it to get the most of your change in schedule.

 

Justin Birckbichler

Justin Birckbichler is a fourth-grade teacher in Stafford, VA and a Google for Education Certified Innovator. He presents about technology integration at national events, including a 2016 keynote address about challenging teacher mindset. Connect with him at @Mr_B_Teacher and read his blog at blog.justinbirckbichler.com. He’s currently battling cancer and documenting his journey at www.aballsysenseoftumor.com.