The poet, Carl Sandburg once wrote, “It is necessary … for a man to go away by himself … to sit on a rock … and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?”. The end of the school year is always a vital time to reflect. I usually spend the two summer months that I am not in school thinking about how my year has gone and what can be improved for the coming year. For example, I know that this summer, I will be fiddling with new ideas (and technology) that will help me to stay in contact with parents more frequently and more efficiently next year. As teachers, we are lucky to have the time to reflect in between each academic year. Summer months rejuvenate, inspire, and allow us to be better than our past selves. There are many ways that people choose to reflect on their year; here are a few of my favorites:
1. Enjoy some time off first.
This is something I struggled with during my first few summers off. I needed to fill my days with something, whether it be reading a new methodology book, reorganizing my binders and handouts, or even just going pin-crazy on Pinterest. I’ve since learned how very important it is to clear your head, relax, and separate yourself a bit from the year that has just ended. I feel you go into your reflections with a more open mind.
2. Define your current strengths and weakness.
When you have finally relaxed, think about where you stand as a teacher. Be proud of your accomplishments and your strengths, and be aware of your weaknesses. I find that from summer to summer these strengths and weaknesses are always changing and it is interesting to see what I still need to improve upon.
3. Find one area to research and study.
After you have defined your weaknesses, pick one and research ways to improve it. It could be something simple, like how to incorporate more vocabulary into your instruction, or it could be big, like how to motivate your under-achieving students. Find out what is working for other people through forums and social media, or search around for methodology books that have already tried to tackle these issues and see if their suggestions might work for you. By the end of the summer, if you have time to research an additional weakness or two, go for it! If not, that’s ok too.
4. Learn something completely new.
Whether it is a new technology tool or a new method of classroom management, learn about something you have never delved into before. Even if it’s not for you, it might open your mind to other ideas or it may inspire you to try something similar in your classroom.
5. Live life.
This last one is important. I find that during the school year, I get so wrapped up in my work and my students that my life gets put on hold at times. Summer is when I get to read the books that I want to read (and have time to read), when I find the courage to try new recipes, when I have the time to travel or to see friends who live far away. These experiences, though unrelated to teaching, can reawaken something inside of us and help us to be more positive and creative.
This summer, I will be enjoying my time, but learning a lot along the way. I will be working from home as a writing intern at an online magazine as part of my graduate program. I am so looking forward to this new and unique experience. I will also be spending a week at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Program in August. I was lucky enough to attend last year’s writing institute and I simply cannot wait for this year’s reading institute. And finally, I will be traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area of California. I will be seeing some amazing natural wonders such as the redwood forests, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Sonoma Valley wine country.
Happy traveling, happy reflecting, happy summer!