As the school year draws to a close, it’s important for educators to take time for themselves to recharge and reflect, and to find learning opportunities. Summer provides a valuable opportunity for educators to explore collaborative professional development on their own schedule. By investing in ourselves and our ongoing learning, we can better serve our students and colleagues, as well as stay connected to our profession so that we can grow and thrive as educators.
Focusing on our well-being is essential, especially at the end of each day and when we have longer breaks to really take some time for ourselves. Our days as educators are so busy, and we invest so much in others, that finding time for our own self-care and rest can be difficult. However, recharging is essential for balance and wellness.
There are simple things we can do, such as starting each day with reading, walking, time spent outdoors, and just relaxing. Reconnecting with family and friends will help us to recharge and be more present in our time together, leaving us feeling rested and ready to reengage in our work.
One of the reasons why I value the summer break is the added flexibility it offers. I have more time to reflect on my work, set new goals, and push myself to grow professionally. I also know that taking advantage of summer learning opportunities not only benefits me but also enables me to better support my students and colleagues.
For myself, starting each morning by reading and reflecting on what I have read has led me to be consistent and intentional in my reflective practice. Also, by staying connected with colleagues and members of my professional learning through virtual or in-person meetups or using social media, I can reflect and hold myself accountable by practicing reflection with others.
5 Learning ideas for the summer
In addition to the benefits of personal growth, summer offers a chance for more collaboration and connections. During a busy school year, it can be easy to keep ourselves isolated, despite best intentions. However, with technology available to access professional development and flexible schedules in the summer, we can find time and space to connect with other educators and engage in meaningful collaborations and networking. Here are some ideas to engage in learning on your schedule.
1. Learning from anywhere: Consider enrolling in an online course or virtual conference that you can complete at your own pace, from wherever you are, giving you the flexibility to balance learning with relaxation. There are many free conference options for educators this summer. One is the Future Ready conference in June. The Sparrc conference (in person or virtual in July) is a free event for teachers, administrators, technology staff, and anyone interested in using educational technology. Coming up in July is a free multiday event hosted by Holly Clark and the AI Infused Classroom, which will offer 10 sessions focused on artificial intelligence.
2. Education podcasts: Podcasts are a great choice for learning on the go and for reflection. I started my own podcast ThriveinEDU a few years ago and have found it to be so helpful for my professional growth and for helping to support others. Some of my favorites include Teaching Keating, Carl Hooker, Dr. Will Deyamport, The Edufuturists, Learning Unleashed, Easy Edtech Podcast, Leading Equity, and Rethinking Learning. Find one and listen while walking, in the car, or during lunch—on your schedule.
3. Book studies and summer professional learning communities: Engaging in a book study, either via videoconference or in person, is a great way to connect as well as to stay accountable and motivated in ongoing learning. There are many books to choose from, and sometimes having a list to start with is helpful. Here are 25 of the books that I recommend to educators.
4. Blog reading and writing: For educators, reflecting on our work is essential. In the summer, taking time to write down ideas and note our experiences in a journal can be very beneficial for planning our next professional learning steps. Sharing our blogs with others is even more beneficial, as we may have the answers to some challenges that others are experiencing. There are also many individual educator blogs and publications like Edutopia. A great way to dive into blogging is to have one of your summer goals be to pitch an article of your own!
5. Social networking: Choose a space or spaces on social media to connect with other educators to share resources and ask questions. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter offer opportunities to connect with educators from around the world and share tips, tricks, and resources in a variety of ways. There are always Twitter chats to join or simply hashtags to follow conversations. LinkedIn and Facebook have communities for educators of specific content areas, grade levels, roles, and even focus areas, such as STEM and emerging technologies.
Balancing recharging, reflection, and learning
Choose one thing at a time: There are so many activities that are worthwhile for our mental and physical well-being to choose from. Our days become quite full, and the worst thing we can do is overwhelm ourselves by trying to do everything. Simply choose one thing, one activity per day, that will be good for your well-being and learning, and set a time to do so.
Have a routine: One way to find balance is just by having a bit of consistency added in each day. Set aside a specific time to read or take a walk in the morning, listen to music or a podcast, or respond to emails. Planning a routine helps to balance a busy day. I have found that having consistency in these activities during the day is one way to keep myself more focused and less stressed.
Disconnect: We all know that we need to take a break from all of the technology, but it can be tough. Technology can keep us connected and informed, but it can also pull us away from being truly present in the moment. If you can’t leave your device at home, try to mute notifications at specific times during the day, or only answer emails and messages in the morning and evening.
Final Tips for a Worthwhile Summer
When we are intentional about a plan that includes time for rest and time to learn, we can maintain a healthy work-life balance while continuing to grow and improve as educators.
With the help of technology, we now have the ability to network with other professionals, stay up-to-date with the latest trends in education, and become a part of supportive communities. The variety of options available has revolutionized how we can connect and learn as educators.
But we have to remember that even with so many opportunities and extra time available for a few months during the summer, educators must prioritize taking breaks and focusing on self-care to avoid burnout. When we step away and take time to rest, recharge, and reflect, we will start the next school year feeling refreshed and ready to dive into learning and growing.