by Kristy Placido
Many of us are now enjoying a much-deserved summer break and the rest of us are in that home stretch! Summer can bring on a wide range of feelings and emotions for teachers, from relief, to anxiety, to pure joy, to dread. We also have a variety of activities to occupy ourselves with. Some of us want to do absolutely nothing but rest and recharge as much as possible. Some of us travel the world. Some of us work another job. Maybe household projects or crafting are your idea of a fun time? Some of us focus on cleaning and organizing a much-neglected home that won’t REALLY get cleaned again until next summer. Some of us use the time to learn and plan for the upcoming school year. For most of us, our summer is a balance of all of these things and more, and it never seems to be enough time or as long as we thought it would be when we locked our classroom for the last time and drove away in our packed car.
In my opinion, summer is one of the most critical times of the year for a teacher. The way we spend our summer can have a tremendous impact on the upcoming school year. I’d like to share with you some things that I think are really important to do this summer:
1. Unplug and disconnect, preferably near some trees or water. The Japanese promote the idea of “forest bathing” or shin-rin yoku. The concept is simply to spend time near trees doing nothing. No hiking, no reading, no iPhone. Sit or wander but nothing more. It has been proven to lower stress hormones and boost your immune system. If you live in the city, a visit to the park will do just as well. While you’re at it, try going barefoot! The practice of “earthing” is simply spending time with your bare feet on the earth has also been shown to offer enormous psychological and physical benefits! My family and I are planning spend much of our summer in the woods near Traverse City, Michigan at our family “camping compound”. Part of the beauty of this place, aside from the natural beauty, is that there is no internet connection and most of the time we don’t even get a cell signal. This forced-unplugging can be a little jarring at first, but we soon settle in to a new, slower routine!
2. Gently refocus your health goals. You don’t have to make any major changes, but are there a few little things you could do to improve your healthy habits this summer? Perhaps you might try to increase your number of servings of fruits and vegetables, up your water intake (you can use the restroom whenever you want right now!), scale back on the coffee and diet sodas, spend an extra 30 minutes a day doing something physical such as taking a walk or a bike ride, or making a few more of your meals from scratch. You may not have the time or energy to maintain all of them once school begins, but you will benefit even from a few weeks of healthier living and it will help you start the school year with a clearer mind and stronger body. Emotional well-being is important and often neglected during the school year too! Re-connect with loved ones you’ve neglected. Have you taken your significant other on a fun date lately? Have you visited your grandma recently? Spoken with your best friend from high school in person (Facebook doesn’t count!)? Staying connected with people you love is good for your soul. Just do it!
3. Connect with other teachers who will inspire you. Whether in person or online, seek out some professional pals who have positive attitudes and a love of learning. If you are unable to attend a fantastic conference such as iFLT, follow the tweets online! If you are on Twitter, follow #iFLT19 during the week of July 15-19 for some second-hand inspiration! We also have 2 amazing guest bloggers sharing with you right here on the CI Peek blog so you don’t have to miss a thing! You can also read a great book about teaching together with some teacher pals, have an informal lunch to talk about your goals for the year, join a webinar together, or just share some resources you love via social media. Fluency Matters has a Facebook group just for teachers who teach with our comprehension-based readers! Join us! Fluency Matters is also rolling our new COLLAB groups for many of our comprehension-based readers this summer! Our goal is to provide a space where you can collaborate and plan with other teachers who teach the same readers in their classes! Taking the time to develop and nurture those professional connections may sustain you through the winter blahs. Is face-to-face more your style? Maybe YOU would be the perfect person to organize a local gathering for like-minded teachers! It could be as informal as saying you plan to be at a certain coffee shop for a 2 hour window of time!
4. Review your curriculum but don’t revamp everything. Look over what you did last year and select a few things to refine, but don’t feel pressure to completely re-do all your lesson plans or create all new units. Baby steps over time is the best way to develop as a teacher. Trying to completely create new units for all of your courses is a sure path to early burn out. Tackle a few things that you think will make a positive impact, and let the rest go for now. Set one or two SMALL goals for yourself for the upcoming year. It is easy to feel like the summer is forever and that you have enough time to reimagine everything, but that is unrealistic and will lead to a major letdown. Set goals for yourself such as incorporating one new reader in one class (or teach the same one in multiple levels!), adding a personal touch such as passwords to enter the room or “Special Person” interviews, or perhaps introducing a new video series or a new technology tool. If you are looking for inspiration in forming your curricular goals, check out my scope and sequence and Carrie Toth’s scope and sequence! The same recommendation on restraint goes for classroom décor. If being Pinterest-perfect stresses you out, forget about it! Put up a few colorful posters and focus on other areas of your teaching that will energize you more!
5. Refresh your own language skills. The vast majority of world language teachers in the US are non-native speakers of the language they teach. Summer is the perfect time to sharpen your own language skills! Obviously, I highly recommend spending all summer living with friends in a country that speaks your target language! However, if that is unattainable, get yourself some good books in the language you teach. You need not limit yourself to classics or thoroughly cerebral materials. Personally, I enjoy reading young adult literature in Spanish! I also have re-read some of my childhood favorites in Spanish. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself if your skills have gotten pretty rusty or perhaps never got as polished as you’d like. Perhaps some intermediate comprehension-based readers are the just-right fit for you as comfortable reading materials! There are also tons of awesome shows and movies on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon streaming that you can enjoy in the target language. I personally like to watch in Spanish with the Spanish subtitles on!
However you decide to spend this wonderful gift called summer, make sure to take time for YOU. Remember, you can only take care of others if you’ve taken care of yourself first!
Kristy Placido is the editor of the CI Peek blog. She is the author of several readers for Spanish learners and presents workshops for teachers on teaching with comprehensible input. She has been using comprehensible input and acquisition-based approaches in her own classroom since 1998. Check out her blog at kplacido.com and follow her on twitter and facebook!
Did you know that free professional development is just a click away on Facebook?
Fluency Matters Facebook page
Fluency Matters Comprehension-Based Readers Facebook group
Fluency Matters COLLAB groups
iFLT Conference Facebook group
CI-Intermediate Students Facebook group