By Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., author of Self-Regulation in the Classroom: Helping Students Learn How to Learn
Part of our Cash in on Learning series by Richard M. Cash, Ed.D. Click to read other Cash in on Learning posts.
Back in the day, when I was teaching, I would spend most of my summertime working a second job (mostly waiting tables). I would, however, take time off to travel or just to do a lot of nothing. I knew I needed to do that to get my head realigned for the challenges of the next school year.
A while ago I wrote a blog post on how to help students keep learning during the summer. This post does the same for you, the teacher. I’m going to use the same framework to help you not only relax and recharge but also get yourself ready for the school year ahead.
1. Deepen your passions.
Summer is a great time to dig into your passions, whether they include gardening, reading, knitting, or hiking. Use this stretch of time to take that passion one step deeper. If you are already accomplished at gardening, try something more exotic, such as going unconventional. Turn that small space between your garage and the sidewalk into a pixie garden—a tiny garden with miniature plants and some fairies sprinkled in. Check out Pinterest for more ideas.
Take what you are good at and deepen it. Go one step further and try something new. Not only will you be amazed at what you can accomplish, but you will also put yourself in the shoes of your students. Document your learning process. Share it with your students throughout the coming school year so that they know you, too, are a learner.
2. Learn something new.
Now is your chance to learn how to ballroom dance, speak Swahili, play the banjo, or skydive. Look for that one thing you’ve always wanted to do but could never find the time to learn. Learning something new, no matter how crazy that thing is, recharges your brain and helps in avoiding neurodegeneration. Some studies show that challenging our brains to do something new can improve cognition and long-term memory.
Another idea is to take in cultural events. Consider the students you will have in the coming year. Getting to know their cultures, foods, and traditions can help you understand them. If you have the money, traveling to countries where your students originate from can be even more powerful.
Speaking of travel, now is the time to hit the open road, whether you do it on a motorcycle, in an RV, or by car, plane, or scooter. Travel opens you up to a world of new ideas and experiences. If you are traveling to a location where you don’t speak the language, think about your struggles with communication. This can be a great learning experience and can help you become more empathic toward your students whose first language is not standard English.
Again, keep a journal, videos, or photos of the challenges you faced in your learning and how you handled them. Putting yourself in your students’ position and sharing your learning with them will do wonders for your classroom climate.
3. Relax and renew.
Of course, you need to spend some of your summertime relaxing and renewing. I am a huge advocate for naps! I love my afternoon naps—I’m a big fan of long naps especially. Because I’ve missed so much good sleep over the school year, I feel like I’m playing catch-up during the summer. I know some will say to limit your naptime to 20 minutes, but for me that’s just the beginning. Whether you are a short napper or a Rip Van Winkle–type napper (like me), make sure you get your Zs.
Another way to recharge is through exercise. I find that when I’m really busy, exercise can get pushed aside. Research shows that the best way to recharge both our brains and our bodies is through exercise. You don’t have to “pump iron” or run long distances to get your exercise in. I’ve moved from distance running to timed walking (due to back surgery and age). I try to walk briskly every day for at least one hour (or 10,000 steps). During my walks I listen to podcasts or audiobooks, combining tip #2 and tip #3!
Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, or reading a good book are all wonderful ways to relax and renew. Additionally, neuroscience shows these are also ways to avoid neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Teaching is a mentally and physically taxing profession. You have to love it to keep coming back year after year. Take this time to treat yourself well so that you are ready for the challenges of the new school year!
Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., writes the monthly Cash in on Learning blog posts for Free Spirit Publishing. He has given hundreds of workshops, presentations, and staff development sessions throughout the United States and internationally.
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