Category Archives: Summer Like a Teacher Series

Summer Like a Teacher: RENEW

This week, ClassMax will be sharing a series called, “Summer Like a Teacher,” where we cover the three key parts of a teacher’s summer:  Relaxing, Refreshing, and Renewing.  Today, we continue with the step that separates the good teachers from the really great teachers:  Renew.

Once you are relaxed after another long school year and have taken time to refresh yourself with reminders of why you love teaching, then comes the hard work of renewal.  We all know that the teaching profession can be one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing careers out there.  We put our heart, mind, and body into our work and that can yield wonderful consequences… but it can also burn teachers out.

We have all heard the statistics about teachers who don’t return after their first, third, or fifth year teaching.  But more than statistics, we’ve all probably experienced that burn out for ourselves.  While we chose to stick it out, it is easy to understand those who decided this profession was too demanding to be worth it.  Burn out is no joke, and it’s also not something that a lazy summer is going to fix.  To fight teacher burn out – and to make ourselves better teachers – takes intentional time of renewal in our profession.  It takes time to hone our craft, to make changes to our teaching, and to refine ourselves as professionals.  And that is why we need a period of renewal during the summer.

Here are a few tips to help you renew your commitment to teaching this summer:

Never Stop Learning

Like our students, we should be constant learners.  My mentor teacher throughout the beginning of my teaching career was a seasoned teacher who was twenty years into her career.  She taught me so much about lesson planning, unit cohesion, classroom management, and rigorous instruction.  But the one that I that I learned the most from her was that no matter how long you have been teaching, keep trying new things.  She was the first to sit down with a list of instructions for some new website or program and teach herself how to use it.  She watched tutorial videos when she didn’t understand, she contacted the help center when she had questions, and she NEVER GAVE UP.  No matter what new shiny tool came across her desk, Tammy continued to give everything a try.  It is this passion for always being open to learn new things about teaching that I took away the most from her and it’s one of the best lessons we can all learn as we renew ourselves for another year.

Try Something New

There’s always some new crazy fad in teaching, isn’t there?  From the ol’ faithful close reading and think-pair-share, to the flashier Socratic seminars and escape room challenges, teaching strategies continue to evolve as quickly as our students.  But so often, teachers get stuck in their favorite tried-and-true methods of teaching, not because they are opposed to trying something new, but because WHO HAS TIME to try something new?  Well, teacher friends… summer is that time.  Write a few lesson plans that include some new teaching strategies.  Maybe there were some things you found during your refreshing stage of your summer that peaked our interest?  Go ahead and plan out a lesson or two… or even an whole unit!  If you stick with your same content-based scope and sequence every year, then plan a generic lesson that you can use for any standard or skill you are teaching.  At some point in the year when you and your students are feeling the fatigue that comes with the same routine every day (usually around January, for me), pull out that awesome lesson your planned over the summer, drop your content into it, and see what happens!

Critically Assess Your Teaching

This one is the hardest step for me and one I often like to do with a teaching friend.  My former PLC and I used to do this over the summer and it was always so helpful.  We went through our previous teaching year unit by unit and we gave a thumbs up or thumbs down to just about every lesson or activity that we taught.  We based our assessments on how effective we felt our students learned the material AND on how engaged the students were during instruction.  If an activity lacked in either of these two areas, we dropped it.  This left us with a solid foundation of activities that were tested and fine-tuned over the years and it gave us holes in our instruction that we could fill with new, stronger, more dynamic, engaging lessons.  The result was that every year, our content improved.  Every year, our teaching improved.  This is such a critical part of teaching, but it is one that teachers seldom have time or energy for once the school year has begun.  Summer is a perfect time to sit down with a friend and your lesson plans and begin that critical process of assessing your instructional practices.

We all look forward to summer break.  It is a much needed break from a profession that has a high burn out rate.  But with a few intentional steps, you can use that time away from the classroom to make yourself a better teacher.

  1. RELAX – Give yourself permission to relax into the summer.  You’ve already put away your classroom for the summer physically, now mentally put it away.
  2. REFRESH – Once you have truly relaxed for a while this summer, start to slowly refresh your teaching career.  Take time to research other teachers, to explore new ideas, and even treat yourself to a few things you don’t normally get during the school year.
  3. RENEW – The final piece that truly makes a difference in summer break is to renew your commitment to instruction.  Keep learning about ways to improve your teaching, be open to new ideas in your classroom, and take time to assess your instructional practice.

With these three steps, you will be amazed at how ready you are when the school year begins again.  You will feel rested, excited, and confident in your abilities as a teacher.  And that, teacher friends, is how you set your students up for success.

(…you can also set them up for success using ClassMax… cough, cough… sales pitch… cough, cough…)

Summer Like a Teacher: REFRESH

This week, ClassMax will be sharing a series called, “Summer Like a Teacher,” where we cover the three key parts of a teacher’s summer:  Relaxing, Refreshing, and Renewing.  Today, we continue with my personal favorite…REFRESHING!

I think sometimes the words relax, refresh, and renew can be tossed around interchangeably, but they are actually very distinct in their differences and each has an important place in the summer of a teacher.  When we relax, we allow our bodies and minds time to unwind and let go of the stresses of the last few months of the school year.  Once we are relaxed, we are able to move into the next phase of refreshing.  

According to Merriam-Webster, to refresh means to restore animation or to freshen up.  Doesn’t that sound great?  To be animated or fresh for our school year?  But how often we let our summer break trickle by without much intentional thought given to animating and freshening up our teaching practices.  Well, let’s change that this summer.  Take a look at these simple ways to refresh yourself this summer:

See Others Teach in Action

One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is to watch others teach.  It is inspiring to me, and even in classrooms where the teaching might leave something to be desired (hey, it happens to all of us sometimes…), there is always, ALWAYS something I can take away from another teacher.  During the school year, I don’t get the time to see others teach often because I’m teaching myself.  And obviously, during the summer, we don’t have classrooms to observe, so I rely on videos.  I can get lost for HOURS in the Teaching Channel videos.  I pin them to my Pinterest board for later use, which we will get to in the Renewal phase of our Summer Like a Teacher series.  Seeing other teachers gives me fresh ideas for my classroom and inspires me to become a better teacher, which is really what the refresh stage of summer should do.

Buy Fun School Supplies

I’m sure I’m not alone in the teacher world when I say that school supplies are one of my favorite parts of being a teacher.  Seriously.  There’s nothing more fun to me than a pack of new pens (these are my favorites).  During the school year, all my money goes towards supplies for my students as it should.  But during the summer, I can refresh my own supplies guilt free!  Some of my favorite little teacher splurges include a new pack of Mr. Sketch markers all to myself for my anchor charts, this super cute striped desk caddy, and these fun polka dot clipboards which are a steal for a set of six.

Read an Inspiring Teaching Book

In the “relax” stage of our Summer Like a Teacher series, I stressed the importance of NOT reading anything related to teaching as a way to let your mind go.  But as we move into the renewal stage of summer, go ahead and dive into a book that inspires you to be a better teacher.  Soak up inspiration from successful teachers in all areas of education.  Every summer, I re-read two books that changed and continue to shape my teaching in the classroom:  The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and (don’t laugh) The First Days of School by Harry Wong. “The Book Whisperer” inspires me to try hard and push more in my classroom and The First Days of School remind me that the basics of teaching are consistent from year to year, no matter how long I have been in the classroom.

The objective during the refreshing part of a teacher’s summer is to surround yourself with what inspires you most about teaching.  Get back to what you love about teaching. Fill your inspiration tank now because we all know that once the school year begins, it is easy to lose sight of what we love about our jobs. Soak up all the goodness of teaching and refresh your teacher heart this summer!

Join us later this week as we tackle the final part of a teacher’s summer… renewal!

Summer Like a Teacher: RELAX

This week, ClassMax will be sharing a series called, “Summer Like a Teacher,” where we cover the three key parts of a teacher’s summer:  Relaxing, Refreshing, and Renewing.  Today, we begin with everyone’s favorite – relaxing. 

I don’t know about you, but the first week of summer vacation is always hard for me as a teacher.  I’m still used to the rush and gush of the end of the school year, so my mind and body doesn’t really know what to do when it all of a sudden hits a wall of relaxation.  I usually hit several emotional stages when I try to relax on summer vacation: 

  1. Guilt – I should be doing something.  I could be doing something.  I need to be doing something.  Anyone else have those thoughts on repeat when they try to relax?  
  2. Laziness – When I finally get over the guilt, I do a complete 180 and become the laziest creature on the face of the planet.  I sit in my pajamas for days, binging on Netflix, and letting my own kids have way too much screen time so that I can continue MY binge of too much screen time.  
  3. Redemption – After a few days of laziness, I wake up one morning completely angry at myself for wasting my summer away.  This is usually the point when I commit to exercising until I can’t breathe, eating only kale, and cleaning out the closet in my guest room that hasn’t been cleaned out since this time LAST summer.  
  4. Laziness #2 – After a binge of redemption, I go back to laziness because I have used up all my energy for the foreseeable future. 
  5. Guilt #2 – This laziness leads to guilt again.

And so the cycle continues.  Is this just me?  Tell me I am not alone in this!  But this summer, I am committing to a better, healthier cycle of relaxation.  One that doesn’t burn me out and make me feel terrible.  In case I am not the only one out there with this issue, I thought I would share a few tips I am using myself to make my summer more relaxing:  

Schedule a Vacation

Now, we all live on teacher’s salaries, so don’t panic that I’m encouraging us to all take extreme European vacations here.  But in summers past, I have found that the earlier in the summer I take a vacation away, the quicker I am able to relax into my summer.  It’s like a buffer between my working days and my home days.  It’s much easier for me to relax when I am away from home than when I am just shuffling around my house, looking for stuff to do.  And vacations don’t have to be elaborate.  A visit to my sister’s in Atlanta is a seven hour car ride and a free stay!  Even a staycation in my own city of Orlando can be nice.  It’s easy to find summer deals for residents at a lot of major hotel chains, and a two night stay with a pool and someone to make my bed can do wonders for me.

Read a Book

And the book better have NOTHING TO DO WITH SCHOOL, teacher friend.  No PD books to get ahead of the school year, no YA books to stay connected to your students, and no teacher themed novels that make you feel all “Dangerous Minds”-y.  Get yourself some real, adult fiction and get lost for a while.  I tend to lean towards easier, predictable plot lines in the summers from authors like Emily Giffin or Nicholas Sparks.  Although, sometimes I still have a hard time relaxing when the plots are a little too simple and then I switch over to thriller and spy novels from Tom Clancy and John le Carre.  Whatever your genre of choice, dig in to something NON-academic and lose yourself for a while.

Go to Bed Early and TAKE A NAP, FOR GOODNESS’S SAKES!  

While it is tempting to stay up late binging out on Netflix just because you can (I just discovered Suits and I’m slightly obsessed!), keeping a fairly routine sleep schedule can help you unwinder faster and more completely.  And if you do decide to burn the midnight oil in a completely unproductive, restful way, don’t underestimate the importance of a good 3pm nap.  During the school year, and especially towards the end, we run our bodies ragged.  Use the beginning of summer to allow your body time to catch up on that much-needed rest you missed in May.

Treat Yourself

Whether it’s a summertime pedicure or a lunch on a random weekday with a girlfriend, find ways to treat yourself.  Not necessarily to anything extravagant, but to those little things that teachers miss out on during the school year.  Sleep in, have a two-hour lunch, lay in the sunshine in the middle of the afternoon, or even listen to that playlist that doesn’t have anything to do with pirates, animal friends, or KidzBop.  Stop for an ice cream cone in a drive thru, just because.  Take a bubble bath in the middle of the afternoon.  Go without make up.  Ditch the cardigans.  LIVE IT UP, TEACHER FRIENDS!

We work hard during the school year and it is easy to feel sometimes like we should be productive ALL the time. But the truth is that giving yourself permission to relax will make you a better teacher in August.  You will go back to school feeling relaxed, fresh faced, and ready for another year!

Join us later this week as we tackle the next key part of a teacher’s summer… refreshing!