Kids who completely disconnect from all literacy and math during the summer may experience the “summer slide.” They return to school in the fall rusty–with little school stamina. They may even lose academic ground that they gained the previous year. So too, when teachers completely disconnect from school in the summer, we get rusty and may even lose some of our professional growth from the year before.
Let me be clear. This does not mean that we should try to work all summer, forgoing the vacation that we so desperately need. A real break from teaching can help restoke our fires, helping us regain the passion and energy that probably faded as the school year finished.
The goal instead is strike a balance. Here are a few ideas. I encourage you to add some of your own to the comments section at the end of this blog post!
Read. Perhaps there’s a book about pedagogy that you’ve been meaning to read, and you just didn’t have time to get to it during the school year. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on some of those “teacher books” on your shelf. I just read Empower, by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani. Or, you might read a book that’s not specifically about teaching but will connect with great teaching and learning. One of my favorites is Drive, by Dan Pink. If books feel too weighty for the summer, you might subscribe to a couple of blogs. In addition to this one (of course!) you might check out this one by my friend and colleague, Allison Zmuda.
Listen. Audiobooks and podcasts can be another great way to keep ideas sizzling over the summer. Again, you might find one specifically about education, such as Larry Jacobs’ Education Talk Radio. Or, a podcast that will connect with teaching but which touches on many diverse topics might be fun. One of my favorites is The Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam.
Plan. Is there a unit you’ve been dying to try, but you just can’t find time during the year to plan it out? Or, perhaps there’s a unit you already teach—maybe one of those stale canned units written by someone who doesn’t know your students? Summer is a perfect time to play around with writing or revising a unit. You have the luxury of time—no need to rush. Let the unit percolate over a few weeks. Work on it for an hour one day and come back a few days later. It’s amazing how much fun unit design can be when you have the time to do it well.
These are just a few ideas. What some other ways you stay connected to teaching and learning during the summer? Add your ideas to the comments section below. And, of course, make sure to take lots of downtime as well—time to rest, play, and connect with family and friends. A nice balance of some fun work and lots of play will help you return revved and ready for a great year of learning with your students!
Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including The Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: www.leadinggreatlearning.com. Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.