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10 ways to take advantage of the summer months

One of the most well-deserved benefits of working in education is having summers off. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things you can do (both professionally and personally) to make the most of those oh-so precious weeks between spring and fall semesters:

1.) Volunteer—Some teachers find they feel less fulfilled in the summer months, often because educators like to feel helpful. If this is the case for you, try volunteering in your community. Whether it be spending a few hours a week at a soup kitchen, building homes for the less fortunate, or a less structured type of volunteering (such as creating a story time where you read to kids at your local library) giving back can satiate that need to be of service. The options here are pretty much endless since everyone appreciates free labor, so find something you’re passionate about and go for it! It’s sure to give you a case of the feel-goods.

2.) Up your teaching game—For the folks who just can’t get enough of their profession, summer is a fabulous time to not only reflect on the year you just wrapped up, but also dive into ways you can better develop your skills for the next one. Tackle professional reading about pedagogy, changes to standards and curriculum. Consider taking a certificate course, attending trainings and conferences or exploring professional development opportunities, such as the AICPA’s APBP training for advanced high school accounting. You can also work toward getting your Master’s degree or even design your own professional development by applying for a learning fellowship through FundForTeachers.com.

3.) (Re)Visit your teaching portfolio—Every teacher should have their own teaching portfolio. If you do, now’s a good time to update it. If you don’t, now is an even better time to create one. Having your portfolio up to date means you’ll not only be ready when a new teaching opportunity arises but also give you a better idea of what areas you could better develop to become a more well-rounded educator. For more guidance, check out our article: Creating a teaching portfolio that gets you noticed.

4.) Work on yourself—When it comes to developing and embracing healthier habits, starting in the summer months is your best bet. After all, implementing new habits takes time so doing so when you’re out of school increases your chances of following through with them once the school year begins again. In addition to the most-obvious needs most of us have to exercise more and eat better, don’t forget about feeding your brain and soul too. Take a class to learn new skills and further develop (or find) your hobbies. Whatever you do, try to find ways to gain the tools to deal with the challenges that await you on the other side of summer. 

5.) Hunt for supplies—Now that you’ve got some spare time (a phrase never uttered during the school year), it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for deals on school supplies and other items for your classroom. Yard sales, thrift stores and other resale shops are great places to find books and other classroom supplies. Watch for sales at big box and office supply stores, too, so you can stock up on supplies for the upcoming school year.

6.) Earn extra income—It’s no secret that teachers’ salaries are not always reflective of the value and difficulty of the profession. That’s why many educators use the summer to increase their incomes. In addition to teaching summer school, teachers can earn more money by picking up a temporary nannying job, developing (or sharing existing) lesson plans on TeachersPayTeachers.com or becoming an active member of the gig economy (by dog walking, tutoring, driving for a ride share, personal shopping, etc.). 

7.) Get organized—You’ve likely been putting it off for long enough, and now that class is out, so are your excuses for not getting organized. While it might not be the most fun task, it will likely provide you with a huge sense of accomplishment once it’s done (and make it easier to find what you need when you need it). Start by taking on your physical files and mountains of paper. Scan what you can so you’re able to get rid of as much as possible, then create a system for the stuff you need to keep. Clean up your electronic files on your desktop and don’t forget to back it all up, just in case. 

8.) Relax—This might seem like a no-brainer, but just like students, teachers often wonder at the end of the summer where the time went. So instead of cramming as much as possible into every moment of freedom, consider the power that comes from allowing yourself to just be. Sleep in, catch up on books and movies, take naps, go to the beach, hang out at the pool, etc. Do whatever recharges your batteries the most—even if that’s doing absolutely nothing. Did we mention naps?

9.) Collaborate with colleagues from other schools—We all know two (or more) heads are better than one. That’s why it’s a good idea to reach out to fellow teachers, especially those who you don’t have access to during the school year, to expand your planning process. Connect with colleagues to develop lesson plans together or compare notes on things that work in your classroom and things that don’t. Getting an outsiders perspective can often help you tackle strategies and focus areas you tend to shy away from (like incorporating more tech into your lessons) and can help you become an even stronger educator.

10.) Tackle your classroom—Some schools make teachers pack everything up at the end of the year, while others give you free reign all summer long. If you have access, the middle of the summer is the perfect time to organize and decorate your classroom. That’s because you don’t have to deal with the usual interruptions—plus you can rock out to some of your favorite tunes and go at your own pace. Get ideas on how to get the most out of your classroom in our article: Home(room) improvement: Tips for organizing your teaching space. 

Choose just a few of these ideas to focus on or spread the love by doing a little bit of everything. It’s your summer, so whatever you end up filling it with, be sure to spend it like you mean it.