New Teacher Toolbox: 5 Tips for Finding the Balance over Summer Break

In my first five years of teaching, I managed to never take a summer break. That’s not to say that I took another job or worked at a year-round school. No, instead, I’d overwork myself all summer with planning and personal professional development opportunities. Looking back I do feel some respect for the level of energy I had! That said, working too much is a recipe for burn out, and your students (and your family!) need you to be at your best during the school year. 

Here are my top 5 tips for finding the balance over summer break:

  1. Make Big Picture Plans. During your first week of summer break, grab a calendar and start mapping out your summer. Add vacations, you kids’ activities, all of those doctors appointments you’ve saved for summer, volunteering, and weekend camping trips. This will help you to find your summer flow, and can support you in identifying times when you can actually schedule some work time during the summer.
  2. Get Granular With Planning. Every weekend, carve out 20 minutes to look at your upcoming week. While your kids are at theatre camp, could you work for four uninterrupted hours? Which days are so busy that planning won’t be a choice? Focusing in on your week’s activities and carving out a few hours to plan for the next school year can make that back to school time less stressful. 
  3. Make a List (& check it twice!). My school works on a trimester schedule, and I plan my three science units around that schedule. If you’re on a quarter system, zoom in on that first quarter. What are things that would make your life significantly easier in the fall? What parts of your curriculum desperately need to be revamped? Summer time is not the time to completely revamp your entire curriculum-that would really throw you off balance! Invest time and energy into making teaching and learning better for you and your students in bite-sized efforts. 
  4. Order Your Planner and Start Scheduling the Next School Year. This is a task  that is neither taxing nor time-consuming, but can pay off in the long run. Most school districts put our calendars for the following school years far in advance. Spend some time ordering the best planners for you, and make sure to pick up some colorful and fun pens while you’re at it! Start adding the holiday breaks, parent-teacher conferences, midterm grading times and any other important dates to next year’s planner. There’s nothing better than sitting in a beginning of year meeting and already having those dates on the books. Starting your year organized will help you stay organized. 
  5. Schedule Your Fun & Relaxation! While you look over your summer, make sure that you’re finding time to meet friends for coffee, to take morning walks with your dog, and to get in some paddleboard time. If you put fun activities on the calendar, you’re more likely to follow through!

If there were a sixth item on this list, what would you add? Let me know by posting a comment or connecting with me on Instagram or Facebook!

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