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Monday, June 27, 2016

How to Survive the Dog Days of Summer

The final school bell rings. Overstuffed backpacks and shouts of jubilation reverberate throughout hallways as United States schools release for summer vacation. Starbucks gift cards and handwritten thank you notes from learners-- that would melt any teacher's heart-- are packed up. Good-byes are said. It's June and summer vacation has officially begun for teachers and learners alike.

Tip #1: Celebrate without guilt.

Give yourself permission to let out a whoop! at the top of your lungs. There is no shame in feeling a sense of jubilation for having time away from your classroom. It's okay to admit that you are be out for summer!

Think about it. You don't have to turn in lesson plans and you can eat lunch for longer than thirty minutes. Your food will actually have time to digest! If for a minute you start to feel guilty remind yourself that your learners are just as happy (if not happier) than you are to have the summer off. Celebrating will help relieve that pent up ball-of-stress and help get your summer started on the right foot (or paw).

Warning: the rush of adrenaline you initially feel is similar to a sugar-high. Be prepared to hit a slump within the ensuing days. This is normal and in no way implies that you need medical attention. This is a good time to pull out a Starbucks gift card and order a Triple Grande latte to give you a caffeine boost.

Tip #2. Take an excursion.

As badly as you wanted to be a Publishers Clearing House Winner for 2016, it didn't happen. This is an opportunity to do what teachers do best...go to plan B and improvise. Taking a road trip with the kids in tow can make for a fun outing. An excursion might be going to a museum, taking an overnight camping trip, or going to an amusement park.

Don't let disappointment steal your joy just because another teacher on your team is packing to go on an exotic trip to the Caribbean. It's normal to feel a twinge of jealousy, just don't let it consume you. Vacations are about building memories. It can be as simple as taking a one day road trip to someplace new. The important thing is to let your hair down and have fun!

Tip #3: Learn something new.

 You may have heard the adage: You can't teach an old dog new tricks. Summer vacation is the perfect opportunity to try something new. Ask yourself, What is something I've wanted to do but never felt like I had the time?

This does not mean you have to become an expert photographer, for example. It's simply about stepping out of your comfort zone and learning a new skill. Write a blog. Join a twitter chat. Take a Zumba class. Get your high school band instrument down from the attic and belt out your high school fight song.

Caution: Be prepared for your children, spouse, or significant other to ask if you are feeling alright.

Tip #4 Know your limitations

You are up to your eyeballs in laundry, your car smells like French fries, and you've developed an involuntary twitch in your left eye. This is a normal response to "shoulda-stopped syndrome" or triple SSS.

This is normal for teachers who are conditioned to a routine such as morning bus loop duty, morning announcements, rigorous lessons coupled with formative assessments, playground duty, lunch, more lessons, well, you get the picture. It can be exhausting...but it is also structured.

It can be a trap to think that since "school is out" teachers should be footloose and fancy free. Quite the opposite. Follow tips 1-3, but listen to your body and stop when it tells you to stop. Chocolate and wine can do wonders as long as they are consumed in moderation.

Tip 5: Embrace change.

Before you know it, you'll be cheering with your fellow teachers at convocation and welcoming in the new school year 2016-2017. There will be changes in technology, assessments, and perhaps a new educator evaluation system.

I confess that embracing change can be so much harder than it sounds! But then I remind myself that learning is all about growing. And growing is all about change. Being open and willing to embrace change will start the new school year off right!

Confession Reflection:

  • Fill in the blank. This summer I want to learn to_______?
  • Why is it important to monitor our activity level and take time out for ourselves?
  • What are the benefits of stepping out of our comfort zone and learning something new?

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