ToolboxWhether you use your summer as down time, to take courses or professional development, enjoy a hobby, take a vacation, catch up with family and friends, or start that novel you’ve been planning to write, having the summer to recharge is a well-deserved break. Below are a few tips and tricks to help you de-stress, get organized, and plan for the year ahead.

What do you REALLY do?

What Teachers REALLY Do Over the Summer shoots down the misconceptions that one student thought had about her teachers’ summer vacation: they hide out from their students, count the days until school starts up again (well, maybe so!), or spend the summer thinking of ways to torture their students.

According to an informal New Jersey Press Media survey taken last August, most teachers “said summertime wasn’t much of a vacation at all: about 67 percent worked a second job over the summer. Another 23 percent participated in a research or career-development program. Eight percent of teachers volunteered, seven percent traveled overseas. In What Do Teachers Do Over Summer? the Asbury Park Press reported on teachers who coached summer teams, pursued a master’s degree, learned new techniques for a photography class, or had a fellowship.

In another informal survey, from Teachers.Net, respondents reported creating room arrangements, starting lesson planning, creating classroom materials, reading kids’ books, scavenging yard sales for classroom materials, and putting up bulletin boards.

The Teacher’s Guide to Summer Break: Tips for Fun, Relaxation, and Professional Development offers these suggestions:

  • Decompress
  • Pamper yourself
  • Reflect
  • Inspire yourself
  • Say thank you
  • Reconnect
  • Create family time
  • Plan parent involvement
  • Improve classroom procedures
  • Revamp old lessons
  • Teach summer school
  • Work part time
  • Learn something new
  • Expand your knowledge base.

Follow the links for some extended ideas, including the embedded video “Starfish: an inspirational message for all teachers.”

Read!

Titles for summer reading are educational, some are inspirational, and some are humorous. Suggestions from the Amazon Listmania list, “Books every teacher should read” include:

  • Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College (K-12), Print plus DVD, by Doug Lemov
  • Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement by Robert J. Marzano, Debra J. Pickering, and Jane E. Pollock
  • Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students By Their Brains by LouAnne Johnson.

50-plus Beautiful and Inspiring Books that Teachers Should Read This Summer includes:

  • A Lesson Before Dying, by Ernest J. Gaines
  • The Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract, by Theodore Sizer
  • The Freedom Writers Diary, by Zlata Filipovic
  • Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year, by Esme Raji Codell.

Additional book suggestions come from Top 10 Great Books on Teaching from TeacherVision: Not Quite Burned Out, but Crispy Around the Edges: Inspiration, Laughter, and Encouragement for Teachers by Sharon M. Draper; The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong; Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56; by Rafe Esquith; and Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom by Jim Fay and David Funk.

Write lesson plans

Even if your school uses a lesson plan template, you can enhance your lessons by using the LessonPlanTemplate from www.712educators.about.com.  Their template asks you to define the class, duration of the lesson, materials required, key vocabulary, brief description of the lesson, objectives, standards the lesson addresses, an introduction to the lesson, step-by-step procedure, review, homework/assessment, and evaluation (of student learning).

A great way to freshen your curriculum is to search search for current lesson plans from your peers or other educational resources. Microsoft has put together Lesson Plans for Teachers. You can filter by age range, class period, scenario, or by subject.  Some lessons are cross-curricular like Using Graphs To Investigate Candy Color Distribution, which uses math, language arts and communication skills. You supply the software and the site includes all the tools you’ll need including downloadable worksheets and templates.

EdHelper.com has plenty of lesson plans, printables and worksheets called “Ideas Books” for grades K-6, plus specials like holidays and other early childhood education themes. You can start off the school year with their Back to School and First Day of School Lesson Plans, or peruse Bulletin Boards for ideas for classroom designs. You need to complete a free registration form to use the site.

Mini-Lessons to Upgrade Downtime (Using Instructional Time Wisely) from www.712educators.about.com estimates that your students can lose up to three weeks of instruction per year if you leave 10 minutes at the end of each lesson unused only two or three times a week. They’ve compiled a list of “filler” activities that are both educational and fun including some creative thinking exercises, memory games, poetry, writing exercises and more.

Professional development

Getting excited about new ideas contributes to a renewed sense of commitment to your profession and translates to your lesson plans. NJEA offers many professional learning  opportunities. You can start this month with the professional development showcase on Raising the Bar: Educational Approaches That Go Beyond Labels, check out the e-Learning Academy, or attend NJEA TechCon on July 24. Turn to Page 34 for this month’s Showcase offerings for summer, which include three programs from the National Writing Project at Rutgers and one on storytelling.

You can brush up on your tech skills at the Educational Technology Training Centers (ETTC) throughout the state or watch for PadCamp, an unconference held in Galloway on Aug. 8 (see Page 28), or cross the bridge to attend EdCamp Philly held at the University of Pennsylvania. Why not learn about All Things Google, a one-day conference presented by the SRI & ETTC at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey on July 22. The Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC), an NJEA PD Partner, has a plethora of professional development workshops this summer and Thinkfinity, another NJEA PD partner, has many resources you can explore. At any of the four conveniently located N.J. Department of Education Learning Resource Centers, you can attend workshops, or use their resources and materials to prepare classroom bulletin boards and learning stations. This summer may be the perfect time to check out the department’s model curriculum designed to assist with implementation of the Common Core State Standards and New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards by providing an example from which to work and/or a product for implementation.

De-stress

According to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Challenges for School Leadership:

“…half (51 percent) of teachers feel under great stress at least several days a week. Elementary school teachers experience stress more frequently. The increase since 1985 in the number of elementary school teachers who experience great stress at least several days a week is also noteworthy—59 percent today compared to 35 percent in 1985.”

Best of the Web: Stress Management for Teachers links to several helpful stress management sites. From Chaos to Coherence: Managing Teacher Stress points out some symptoms that may indicate teacher stress, including physical, then emotional, exhaustion; impatience, irritability, and anger with students and colleagues; and repression of feelings.

 links to several helpful stress management sites.  points out some symptoms that may indicate teacher stress, including physical, then emotional, exhaustion; impatience, irritability, and anger with students and colleagues; and repression of feelings.

The site offers tips for coping with stress including engaging in self-reflection by listing things you enjoy, projecting your future, turning negative thoughts around, meditation, massage, and exercise.

De-Stress (Just a Little Fun) is a Pinterest board created “because we all deserve a well-earned break!” and Teaching Blog Addict pins fun and creative teaching tips. You can download Funniest Teacher Stories (for free), which warns you to “be prepared to laugh until you cry.” Or try Teacher Inspiration Pins including EIRC’s Pinterest board.

Smart Classroom Management has tips on How to Avoid Teacher Burnout. Author Michael Linsin says you should rely on your classroom management plan to enforce classroom discipline, arrive early, free your mind by being organized, leave school at school, exercise, eat foods for energy, and stick to routines. In Five Ways To Be A Calmer, More Effective Teacher, Linsin adds that you can reduce tension by slowing down, speaking calmly, and taking a few long, slow breaths.

In 101 Ways to Cope With Teaching Stress, you’ll find ideas for healthful tips, goodies for your desk, organization tools (see teacher tools and templates), inspirational podcasts and sites, de-stressors for home, and mottos and mantras.

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at www.eirc.org or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at linchpinsolutions@gmail.com.