Making Good Use of Your Time While Summer Chillin', Part One: Mental Assessments

Summer Chillin'. Photo from
Ah, summer. The countdown for most of us is over. We have 2-3 months ahead of vacations, house organization, summer sports leagues, zoo trips, professional development...........And before we know it, that time rolls around again, and we say, "Where did the summer go?" And we panic, kicking ourselves because we didn't organize in the summer.

First of all, cut the guilt. 😉. As teachers, we are using to giving. We go from meetings to dealing with discipline to lesson plans to more meetings to evaluations to reading about frustrating developments in education regulations to talking with parents to meetings to discipline..not to mention the work we bring home. On Facebook forums, I've noted quite a few teachers who cannot believe how much they sleep on the first few days of summer. We have no clue how much tension we reserve and how much rest we lack. IT'S OK.

I had surgery this summer, the first summer in a long time I haven't taken classes or tried to earn some type of level or other professional development. It has been very difficult, as someone who is used to being busy, to keep still without the guilt. After a few minor setbacks, I am slowly realizing that this rest is crucial. I have it in my mind an imaginary guilt trip because I'm not working on my professional development plan or back in my room already to set up, but I'm slowly realizing it's OK.

I frequently muse over next year and what I want to do to change things. I've invested 23 years in my last district and only have a couple of years until retirement, but I feel it's crucial for my students and me to change things up. However, I find when I don't thoughtfully think it out when I'm not under pressure, I fall back into old habits, whether they worked or not. Because I'm not taking any PD this summer, I am determined to remedy this. But, I also want to enjoy myself!

It's OK to muse over the past year without ruining your summer. It's good to reminisce before you forget what new ideas you want to try for the summer. The trick is to keep it in perspective. So, here are some guidelines to enjoy your summer while taking stock in next year:
Read a good book! Picture source

  •  Make use of that cell phone or computer and journal. .When an idea pops into your head, enter it into an online journal or send yourself a text, email, or voice reminder, and then file it away.
  • Set aside a particular time of day or week, for whatever length you feel is necessary, to quickly act on one or two of these ideas. You can take 15 minutes to print word wall cards, start a backwards design scope and sequence, or copy great ideas from Facebook in your journal.
  • In your journal, note last year's successes. We tend to forget those. What got your kids engaged the most? What make your outside ensemble rehearsals the most productive? Jot that down.
  • Be honest and note your areas of improvement, either what you noted or what was noted in your observations. Pick one and broach it on a Facebook forum or through the NAfME or AOSA mentoring program.
  • Practice meditative and physical activities now that will be a habit once you start school. I read devotionals from a Bible app, do three games on Luminosity's app, and practice mindful breathing through various apps. I actually started these towards the end of the year, and I find these beneficial. This summer, I am incorporating morning yoga, even if it's for a few minutes. Several years ago, I made it a habit to ride a stationery bike. Somehow, that habit disappeared (I think because the bike broke!), and I can tell the difference. Here are the apps I use:
    Bible app
    Luminosity app (free version)
  • Keep in touch with colleagues and be friends this summer, not a "team". Go to a show with teaching pals. Go out for a drink. School talk is verboten. Get to know them as people.
  • FIND A BOOK. As I continue to work on my Ph.D., right now, I'm at the point where I am waiting for my proposal to be approved. I was so used to reading journals and research that I forgot how to read for enjoyment. Read for enjoyment! Books I current have read or have reserved (not too light-hearted, but I feel I need to keep my brain working:)
    Cellist of Sarajevo
    Confessions of Saint Augustine
    The Handmaid's Tale
  • Don't forget your own musicianship. As music teachers, we often neglect the instruments that
    made us fall in love with music in the first place. Join that summer choir or band. (I've been so excited to be part of a band for the first time in 7 years!). Hone talent on a new instrument. This summer is the summer I've finally decided to stick with guitar and become more proficient on it, as well as ukulele. It's also a good time to go back to my flute warm-ups, since my embouchure has pretty well collapsed. I feel so much better! We are teachers, but I think we are first and foremost musicians.

Other ideas? Check out these ideas for a relaxing teacher summer:

  1. Get the Most Out of Summer
  2. The Teacher Guide to Summer Break
  3. Top 12 Ways Teachers Can Rock Summer Break
  4. Here's How to Have a Relaxing but Worthwhile Summer Break
Part Two of this series is creating a scope and sequence (backward design, yearly goal map, or whatever you want to call it) way before you need it.

Coming this summer:
Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures Teachers Pay Teachers Store Grand Opening......
Sneak peak of one of the products in development:

More teasers coming.....