Once the school year ends some teachers turn off the lights and call it a day until they absolutely have to start thinking about work again. Others take a few days and jump right back into work and summer planning for the next school year. If you are a “summer planner,” I am right there with you. The problem for those of us that use the summer as a work extension is that burnout is REAL. It’s important to know yourself and what you need to take care of YOU.
If you are a “summer planner” there is a way to work over the summer AND take care of yourself at the same time. Ask yourself these 3 questions before you jump into your summer prep!
#1 Is this a “need to do” or a “want to do?”
I am a big believer in making lists. It makes it easy to prioritize what needs to be done. If you’re not sure how to do that, check out my blog post for more information.
Once you have made your to-do list, go back through it and put an (n) for need or a (w) for want next to everything on your list. As teachers, we tend to feel like everything is a need! Remember, your time is YOURS. You can decide if you want to spend it on things you need to do, or things you want to do. Summer break is a great time to give yourself permission to choose what you spend your time on.
Some teachers would rather spend the summer on their “wants”. This is often because it brings them happiness, and they don’t have time for it during the school year. Other teachers want to spend any time working on the “need to”. That way, when they head back into the school year, all of those are completed. There is no right answer! Whatever feels right to you IS the right answer.
#2 Will completing this task make your school year easier and help you have less stress?
When they are struggling with how to do “all the things” they need to do as a teacher, this is the first thing I ask. It is so easy to get lost in the mountain of “to-do’s” that we often forget to think about if the things we are doing are going to help us be the teacher we want to be. We can get caught up in the “fluff.”
The summer before my second year teaching, I spent over 40 hours copying, cutting, lamenting, bulletin boarding, and labelling; thinking this was going to get my year off to a great start. My room looked great and everything was pretty and the way I imagined it should look, but the problem was, I didn’t have much planned for those first weeks. The decorations looked pretty on day one, but I ended up starting the year off overwhelmed with trying to plan at the same time that I was teaching. Lesson learned! I learned that what helps make the school year start off strong for me is spending time over the summer getting 3-4 weeks of lessons/programs planned and ready to go! Again, there is no right answer! Whatever feels right IS the right answer.
#3 Will completing this task while summer planning help your students have a more meaningful school year?
This is a question that is so important to ask at any time of the year when you’re summer planning. We have such a short time with our students and there is so much to cover. With each and every plan you make, ask yourself: is this going to help my students have a more meaningful school year. If you are spending time over the summer working, make sure that time is spent creating content or plans that students will benefit from. Make sure that it will help create a meaningful learning experience for all of your students. There is nothing worse than spending hours of your precious time on something that ultimately doesn’t achieve the goal of helping your students.
Every time you sit down to do some work, ask yourself these 3 questions. Make sure to let the answers guide your decision-making. Every minute we spend working counts but it also takes away time from something else. Make sure the time you give is going to give you back what you want and need.