School’s Out! Now What?

Do you have “Teacher Brain”?  I have decided that it is a real psychological condition.  School ended for me on May 22.  My room has been secured for the summer.  The cleaning crew will come in before school starts to sanitize the building once more before students arrive on August 14.  I have turned in all the grade sheets, supply requests, maintenance requests, handbooks, textbooks, wish lists, and checklists (have you noticed how much administrative stuff there in the final checkout process?)–oh, and all curriculum documents to prepare for next year’s accreditation visits from the independent school association. I finished eight long weeks of remote teaching.  I am exhausted just thinking about how much I did.

But I can’t turn off the teacher brain.  I am already planning for the next school.  I’ve read three novels I plan to teach and made some rudimentary notes.  I’ve searched and bookmarked resources.  I have two professional texts that I want to read and “digest.”  And it’s not even mid-June.

Oh, did I say that I am going to the high school prom on Saturday night as a chaperon and that I will be photographing the senior class at their graduation in a week’s time?  (It’s a small class–twelve students, and the audience is limited to eight guests per student.)

So, now what?  It’s time for me–and for you–to take some time for self-care.  What are you doing for yourself to recharge and renew so that you can be your best self and teacher when school starts in August, whether it’s in-person teaching or remote teaching?  These are some tips that I’ve found that make sense for me:

  1.  Take care of physical needs. I put off making doctors’ appointments as many of you do as well (last September was the exception, but it was an exceptional month). Make the appointments for the annual physical wellness check, the eye doctor appointments, the dental appointments, and the other physical tests that we all have to take. If we are not in our best health physically, we can’t be our best in the classroom, either. Some other ways to take care of those physical needs might be to join a gym and begin a regular exercise routine, even it’s just walking a treadmill for half an hour, do some yoga (alone or at a local yoga studio), get a massage. 
  2. Play.  Have recess!  Take walks with your family, your friends, or your dog, if you don’t have anyone you can walk with.  Go hiking.  Learn a new game.  Learn a new craft.  In other words, don’t do school work for a time.  Your brain is probably like mine and will “teacher brain” will kick in when you see something on TV or at the movie theater (when they reopen to the public) that you think would make a great resource for a unit, but that’s okay.  Write it down, and let it go for a bit.
  3. “Fill the intellectual bank.”  Okay, I stole this heading, and I didn’t write down the source. (Bad teacher!!) But it’s a good idea.  We tell our students that we want them to be lifelong learners, to be curious about the world.  So should we be demonstrating this idea of lifelong learning.  I love photography, and this summer, I plan to read a couple of books that I have (one that my son gave me for Christmas three years ago that I have not finished yet). I want to learn more about the art of photography and develop my skills.
  4. Do some summer professional development.  It’s hard to work in the professional development we need during the school year.  Use part of the summer to take that class you’ve always wanted to take.  I signed up for a year’s subscription to SimpleK12 for professional development to learn how to use various technologies for Remote Learning.  It is pricey at about $350, but they do run specials periodically.  I took advantage of a nearly half-price sale.  There are also many teachers who have blogs in which they share their practice and resources.  (I do plan to write a post soon about professional development opportunities online.)  And there are also professional books and journals.  I have a whole stack of English Journal and Voices from the Middle to catch up on this summer.
  5. Unplug from technology.  Is that even possible?  Take some time to step away from the screen, whether it’s the tablet, the computer, or the smartphone.  Give your eyes a break from those screens. In the last week, it seems that I have been glued to my electronics, not just because I had to finish typing and formatting some curriculum documents to send to the head of school, but because of the news of the current social unrest. Sometimes, while I believe we should be informed about the things that are happening in our world–social unrest, violence in our streets, overt and covert racism and prejudice, the pandemic–sometimes, we have to give our brains a break from it all to let things “settle.”
  6. Finally, give yourself some grace. We are imperfect.  We will backslide.  If you binge-watch Outlander for eight hours when you should be reading The Lord of the Flies and creating the perfect unit plan, or you don’t go to the gym but once, IT’S OKAY.  Seriously, give yourself some grade to slip during the summer.

What will you do for your own self-care this summer?  Even though I’m chaperoning the prom, I promise I will be having a good time.  I might even be out there on the dance floor with my students for a Cupid Shuffle, Cha-Cha Slide, or some other line dance that I can do.  (I even bought new shoes for dancing!)

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