What Advice Would You Give a New Teacher About How To Spend Summer Break?

Second-year teacher Edwin Minguela recently reached out with a question, hoping to get some insights from the T2T community about how to spend summer break:

“This was my second year of teaching. Recently, I shared my story with the Teacher2Teacher community – including how challenging these first couple years have been and how grateful I am for the support of fellow teachers. Knowing I’m part of a community has been so helpful on the tough days.

Now, I’m hoping to turn to this community with a request for advice: I’m approaching my second summer as a teacher, and I’m not sure how I want to spend my time – especially with limited funds. I will be starting graduate school in July, so that’ll take up some time, and I have started to plan for the upcoming school year with a new group of students.

There are so many new things I want to try and ways I want to grow next year, including incorporating more engagement strategies, trying modified flexible seating and building better relationships, but I also want to make sure I get some downtime with my partner so I can bring my full energy back to my kids in the fall.

I’m wondering how other teachers strike this balance. What are you prioritizing this summer, and how will you spend your time?“

—Teacher Edwin Minguela

Here’s what five of your fellow educators shared about making the most of summer break.

(Pssst – do you have a question you’d like to ask teachers in the T2T community? Let us know here!)

Spread out the PD, and make sure you have lots of personal time.

I’ve been teaching for 17 years, and I’ve definitely added more professional development to my summers over time. There have been so many new experiences and tons of collaboration online and in summer camps.

During the summer, I do some professional development, some participating, some presenting – and an edcamp if possible. I teach seventh grade during the school year, and I also love teaching elementary STEAM camps so I can get a chance to interact with elementary students.

But I also write my weekly blog, spend time podcasting and do lots of reading and listening to podcasts – both for pleasure and to stay current on science. Right now I’m reading “Originals” by Adam Grant, and my favorite podcasts are Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History and so many made by members of my PLN, like @theedpodcast.

Relaxation time is key to rejuvenating for the new school year. My advice to you is to spread out the PD and make sure you make lots of family time, personal time and fun time in between, so it feels like you had a nice respite before the new school year.

Take a break and DON’T feel guilty about it!

This is the first year I made the tough decision not to work and save up more money over the summer. Summer can be a good time to pick up a side job, but it’s also important to take time out for yourself. This summer I decided I needed to take the summer off for my own mental health. I am traveling to Peru on a budget for 10 days and will spend the rest of the summer on various hobbies.

I’m going to rework some of my curriculum, read as many books (educational and fun) as I can, and try to visit as many zoos as I can with my mom. I’ve joined a standards-based grading book club with teacher Kathryn Byars (#sblbookclub on Twitter). It’s an opportunity for me to get better acquainted with standards-based grading, which my district is beginning to explore. I also compiled a list of 60 history books to read over the summer, from replies to a tweet T2T sent out for me, so I’m going to work my way through a few of them.

You are starting grad school in July. You deserve a break, Edwin. Believe me, I did an accelerated program where I got my undergrad degree, teaching credential AND master’s in 4.5 years. I know what it’s like to bust your butt, and I can honestly say your mental and physical health should come first. Take a break – and DON’T feel guilty about it!

It’s extremely important to spend even a small portion of it shutting off all work-related stuff (emails, curriculum, even reading articles!). Come back to the school year refreshed! Too many teachers burn out within the first five to seven years and end up leaving the practice. We need strong, refreshed, HAPPY teachers who can best serve their students and community.

Athletes prepare for a long year by training in the off-season. Teachers can do the same.

I’ve been teaching for four years, and in previous summers, I usually did no planning, thinking the time during professional development in August would suffice. It didn’t.

Now, instead of just relaxing all summer, I make it a priority to both rest and plan.

The first week I spend relaxing and spending time with myself. I do activities that make me happy and bring energy and power back to me after being depleted all academic year. I travel, spend time with friends and family, and participate in hobbies and pastimes that bring me joy. Then, for three or four weeks in July, I spend four or five hours a day planning units and lessons. I read books and articles, and I seek out professional development that offers new ideas I can add to my content. If you’re looking for a book to pick up, I recommend “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood … and the Rest of Y’all Too” by Dr. Christopher Emdin. I consider it a must-read for all educators.

Summer planning is one of the more exciting times because you get a chance to plan and make your pedagogy more powerful. By planning ahead, we can also alleviate last-minute stresses throughout the academic year.

Over the summer, every day counts. You must be intentional regarding your time. Craft a schedule. Fill your days with personal time, but with some work as well. Athletes prepare for a long year by training in the off-season. Teachers must do the same.

Set some goals, then go about making them happen.

This is my first summer as a teacher, so I’m right with you, Edwin. So far, I’ve spent summer relaxing and reflecting, attending professional development opportunities at my school and traveling. I’m going to France and Italy in July, and it’s a two-in-one trip for me: I’ve always wanted to go to Europe just for myself, but there’s also so much history that I can bring back to share with my students.

I’ll give you the same advice that I am trying to adhere to this summer. Since I love my content area and I love being in the classroom, devoting some of my break to professional development is necessary – especially in these first few years, when we are still developing our craft. I really recommend you subscribe to the Cult of Pedagogy blog. It’s NOT a cult – but it is a gold mine of information for new and veteran teachers on every topic imaginable. My favorite post is called “Find Your Marigold” – it’s an essential read. I’ve been given so many resources already that I can see myself using in my classroom next year.

I also know the importance of self-care. Teaching is stressful – no doubt about it. I encountered some scary health issues during my student teaching, and my doctor helped me see that if I didn’t find a way to reduce my stress level, I wouldn’t be able to do anything for my students. It was a wake-up call for me. It’s so important to recognize that you can’t give your students your best if you are not at your best.

That’s why it’s important to take some time over your summer to do things that you enjoy. Set some goals: things you’d like to do or places you’d like to go, and then go about making them happen.

That way, when you come back to work in the fall, you will be armed with what you learned during summer PDs but also, more importantly, refreshed and rested.

Take care of your mental health so you’re eager to return in August.

I’ve been teaching for seven years, and summer is paramount to my practice. I need it after the fatigue really starts to set in. Over the past couple years, I have been working on advanced degrees, so a lot of my time is spent on classes and papers – but I make sure to take mini vacations at least each month during break. There is nothing like the sound of a creek, a river or the beach to relax the mind. I record videos of it to watch during the year, too. I can put it on repeat, and enjoy a five-minute “beach” break during my planning time.

I also put my family first during the summer. In addition to teaching, I coach sports, so a lot of my time during the school year is spent on the court or field. I try to cherish the summer when I get to make my own schedule and can plan activities for us to do together. This summer, we are volunteering together at the zoo.

However you end up spending your summer, take care of your mental health first and foremost, so you will be eager to return in August with new strategies and lessons.

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