I LOVE the beach!

My Summer Manifesto: 4 ways to enjoy summer like your students

This summer, I have a totally new outlook on my personal and professional life. Over spring break, I spent most of my time throwing things away and organizing. I had NO idea what an impact this would have on my family, my relationship with my husband, and my goals. Now that I have rid myself of most of my clutter, and have the entire summer ahead of me, I just want to spend my time enjoying the fruits of my labor with the people I love.  Around this time, I start asking students “what are you doing this summer?” just to get blase’ responses like “I dunno.” or “Nothing!”  As a result,  I have now made it my mission to conquer my usual over-activity and have a great summer, just like my kids. For this “summer manifesto”, I have come up with a list of ways we teachers can learn how to enjoy the summer from those who do it best–our students!

  1. Reminisce.
  2. One sure way to know that summer is near is when you see your students exchanging yearbooks and reflecting on the good (and bad) times they had over the school year. It is also a great time for us teachers to look back. One way to do it is to give your students a survey on the last day of school asking them to rate you in areas of instruction and classroom management. I created an online survey using our Moodle site, and the feedback I got was awesome. An area where I received many low marks from students was in making our course relevant to their lives. It’s hard to make a Pre-Calculus class relevant to kids, but my goal for next year to will be to relate as much of our course to real life as humanly possible. Overall, my students felt respected and challenged, and agreed that Animoto was their favorite project. I think it is a great alternative to Powerpoint, and since the kids do not need to fool with transitions and animations, it allows them to focus on the content, not the “bells and whistles” of the software. I recently attended a training where Valerie Burton (@MSBisOnline), a fellow blogger and colleague, introduced us to PhotoPeach, another free site for creating animated slideshows with pics and video. It is very similar to Animoto, but it also allows you to add a “quiz” to the video, complete with cute video game sound effects! My students’ final project was “Teacher for a day”, so I thought PhotoPeach would be perfect for this. Here is an example of their work:

    Pythagorean Identities on PhotoPeach

  3. Travel!
  4. I LOVE the beach!Many of our students will return with tales of family vacations and day trips. What about us? It’s so easy to get bogged down with teaching summer school, writing lesson plans and attending workshops, that we forget how blessed we are to have a summer break! I will get some valuable “me” time when I go to my first ISTE conference in Philadelphia at the end of June.  Attending an out-of-town conference is always great because it’s free (if your school pays for it), educational, and you can usually carve out some time for yourself to just chill and recharge. This summer, I do not have the money to do a dream vacation, but I will definitely be packing up the van every chance I get and driving to the beach, which is only an hour away. I also plan to take a week towards the end of the summer to visit the Florida Panhandle, which is also not too far from us. No, it’s not an island getaway, or a Disney extravaganza, but it will be better than sitting around the house, or finding some work to do! In this tough economy, not many teachers can afford to live “la vida loca” in some tropical locale. Still, there may be some local places you haven’t visited yet right in your own city. As for me, living near a tourist destination as popular as New Orleans means there’s always more to see and do.  So, whether you can afford a trip around the world, or right down the street, get out and see something new! I bet you’ll be glad you did…

  5. Summer reading
  6. If you are like me, you have a ton of books somewhere that you haven’t had time to read. Most of our students have a summer reading list, why not make one for yourself? I am currently reading Is God a Mathematician?, an intriguing study of how math is deeply woven into the fabric of our existence, often in ways that defy explanation, seemingly a part of God’s design. I have lots of books I want to read this summer. As a matter of fact, when I finish this blog post, I’ll brew a pot of coffee and sit on my patio to take in the outdoors and get some reading in. Unlike many of our kids who begrudgingly read their books at the last minute and view it as pointless, we teachers know how important reading is to stay mentally sharp. Why not take some time to relax and read something just for you? Learn a new hobby or escape into a fictional fantasy. I always feel great after reading a good book, and now I’ve got nothing but time to catch up on my reading.

  7. Have fun!
  8. One thing our students know how to do better than us is have fun! They find ways to enjoy themselves where ever they go. This year, for the first time since I started teaching 6 years ago, I turned in my keys at the end of teacher checkout. I usually hold onto them with the intention of going in and doing some work in my classroom over the summer. Not this year! I cleaned my room thoroughly, organized my stuff, and I am leaving all of it behind to reconnect with my family and friends.

This summer will be different for me– I see it as an opportunity to focus on my loved ones after a year full of work and other distractions.  The whole decluttering process I went through over spring break put me on a path towards minimalism, which to me, is trying to do as much as possible with as little as possible.  Unlike before, I will not be taking on a bunch of obligations in an effort to fill up all my free time with nonsense “productivity”.   I now see my summer break as precious, and I intend to savor every moment so I can be renewed in August and ready to face the new school year with no regrets. What are you doing this summer? Please comment and share how you are going to spend this special time. I hope you enjoy it. I know I will!

7 thoughts on “My Summer Manifesto: 4 ways to enjoy summer like your students”

  1. I’ve been a teacher for 23 years. Since my first official summer (1989), ive either worked with summer school, a retail job. My kids are 18 and 13, I’ve been married for 21 years and my husband is also an educator. My husband also worked each summer as a summer school administrator. Currently, we are both 12 month employees and our ‘summer-work’ opportunities are reduced to my teaching an evening class at a local community college.

    I read your manifesto, and I too have transitioned to thenpart of my life/career where I am asking myself if I’ll ever have a summer, or school year, when I do not constantly work. I sat an took inventory and here is what I have realized. I have always worked extra jobs while working as a full time teacher, Saks Fifth Avenue -Mervyns- 1990 Census – Summer School -Disney Store – Personal Tutoring – Loyola Upward Bound -Delgado – UNO. (WOW, I have had some jobs!). I’ve also managed to fit in 2 advanced degrees, continue to raise 2 beautiful children and enjoy a wonderful life with my husband.

    I’m usually tired 24/7, but it’s all good. We, as a family, travel every summer and often during spring break. We are able to say YES, to any request our kids may have (school trips to Florida, Texas, Washington DC, Dance Team …
    Etc). Earlier in my career, I was not aware that I needed to pace myself, to rest. Now, I know that that rest is very important. When I say ‘rest’ I guess I’m including PEACE in my definition. With all that I’ve just listed, I am now learning PEACE. Yes, I still work … Because as life progresses so does the cost of living, and unfortunately we do not have jobs that offer bonuses so we work extra jobs. My husband and I have lived very selfless live together. Everything we have done and continue to do is done for our family unit.

    Clutter? You know I’ve been following your “de-clutter” suggestion since I visited your home and saw the difference it has made in your home and personal growth. Every week since, I’ve removed 10 items from my home. I’ve either donated clothing or thrown out items. I still find that I have much to discard. My children have also been following the de-clutter mantra. Today, we are cleaning out our closet, so I’d better get moving. I hope I’ve added to the discussion. I know I’ve written much, but this was a Multi-level post.

  2. The “Reminisce” suggestion resonates with me. Beyond seeking feedback from students though, I especially find it rewarding just to reminisce as a personal exercise (I’m trying to avoid calling this “reflection,” as that word has been worn out for me after 7 years of teaching).
    Maybe it’s my own personality, but by the time summer finally arrives, the trials/frustrations of the school year weigh heavily at the forefront of my mind. That’s why over the years I’ve gotten into the habit of writing out an “honor roll” — a list of students who’ve made me exceptionally proud to be a teacher. After each name I write a brief description of what made the kid most special to me. At first I think that the list is going to be relatively short, but then as I start going down my roster I’m forced to realize that the honor roll is quite extensive. It invariably includes a healthy mix of hard-working kids, kind-hearted kids, naturally-brainy kids, undeniably-fun kids, challenging kids, kids who’ve grown significantly in the past year, etc. In many cases, the same kids who caused me the most headaches/heartaches end up making the list.
    By the time I finally decide to stop writing, I realize there are many more kids who also deserved to be included.
    This has become my favorite end-of-year ritual. It’s intended to be personal, but I do post the lists to my website with names removed (http://talljerome.com/NOLA/110528_yearsixends.html).
    Through this activity, whatever negativity I’ve built up through a school year is reduced in place of fond memories of my students.

  3. I think I will use your ‘Honor Roll’ within my job as well. I can do this with all of my initiatives and meetings. I’m looking for a few fond memories … THANKS!

  4. With only about two months between one school year and the next you want me to do FOUR things? That’s about two weeks per option . . . IF divided evenly! BUT! I REALLY HAVE TO DE-JUNK . . . my home AND my classroom and . . . and . . . and . . . ! I’ll deal with it! 🙂

    Let’s see . . . if I toss 10 things a week like Michelle said, I would have to live to be about 243 ½ years old to get rid of my junk (and that’s only if I don’t bring in anymore binders from workshops, books from Amazon.com, games from Mindware or Thinkfun, or manipulatives from who knows where!) Maybe I ought to consider tossing / donating 10 things a day! Then I may be able to enjoy the fruits of my labor before I retire . . . or at least before I die! (I’m working on the assumption that I will live past the time of retirement!)

    Okay . . . let me refocus . . . four things to do this summer:
    (1) Reminisce – this past year brought in some old and new projects for my Algebra 2 class – we revisited “Parabolas in the Real World,” and pursued “Step Functions in the Real World,” “My Pet Function,” and “Go Car Go!” Although my students and I love working and learning with projects, I still have to figure out how to make assessment of projects a little more efficient, as well as to make projects more effective in developing mathematical concepts. What I love most about projects is peer assessment with the related opportunity for error analysis! 🙂 I reminisced with friends during the past week as we revisited the “good old days”!

    2) Summer Reading – I plan to read anything that will help me improve upon my own well-being, as well as reading many selections from the resources I received at last week’s differentiation conference: “Just Right – Right Now.” I am quite excited about having new ideas to integrate into previous units – some previous activities may just go right out the window! Maybe I’ll start keeping up with a couple of blogs this summer, too! I also want to read some of those magazines that have piled up all year long because I didn’t have time to read them!

    3) Travel – I took a short trip to Lafayette last week for the differentiation conference (one aspect of my teaching that I want to improve upon). I will also be traveling to Monroe, Louisiana, for an AP Calculus training session later during the month. I plan to incorporate a little sight-seeing while there since I’ve never really spent much time in north Louisiana (except for the year I taught in Shreveport, but I was too busy teaching to travel). I plan to include a little detour to visit my best friend from high school on the way there or back home! In addition to school-related travel, I plan to visit friends and relatives – my brother in Houma (later today) and my cousins in Lafayette and Hayes (where my dad grew up). My real traveling will take me to northeastern Arkansas and southcentral Indiana to visit my children and grandchildren. However, with all the pictures I’ve seen of my friends going to the beach lately, I really think I’ll try to fit in at least a weekend trip to the beach! Can you believe I’ve lived in Louisiana almost my entire life (and that’s a long time!), but I’ve never been to Grand Isle?!?!?! That may change this summer! I may also begin doing what my sister-in-law used to do: “Day Trips” – these are short ventures to see and do things in one day, meaning that you don’t have to worry about booking a hotel! There are still so many sights to see and things to do in Louisiana and Mississippi that I’ve never done before!

    (4) Have fun! Well, that almost goes without saying! I try to have fun doing anything and everything I do! However, I’ve already started doing just that! I spent the first afternoon of my summer vacation with a good friend reminiscing while we drank coffee on her back porch! My trip to Lafayette included staying with another good friend. We talked about the “good old days” – when our kids were young and we’d spend at least one weekend a month sewing and working on crafts while our kids played together. We also played Farkle and Backgammon! I love playing games! After returning home, I’ve watched a couple of movies and visited with friends via facebook. (Glad to see you’ve re-entered the world of fb, Tinashe – I missed you!) I’ve also played around on the internet, exploring new sites – Jerome, I thoroughly enjoyed your birfday musings and moments of fame! I love your videos, especially “Fundamentals of Math, with Jude and Jerome” and “The Best Subject, with Jude and Jerome”!  So, I will continue to explore the internet . . . just for fun!

    A little integration of ideas: Reminiscing about Travel: When I travel, I love to leave the main road . . . here are a couple of tips . . .

    TIP #1: Don’t waste your time leaving I-55 to go see the “Little Red School House” in Mississippi! It is NOT what most of us would expect – it was a red brick, two-story, square buliding, which was not open to the public when I ventured off to find it. The best I could tell is that it has eight classrooms – four on each floor. That’s it! 🙁

    TIP #2: DO venture into the Cherokee National Forest if you are traveling through eastern Tennessee, especially if you are traveling during the fall! It was absolutely beautiful!

    Now . . . off on a day trip down the bayou to visit and reminisce with my little brother and his family while we have some good old-fashioned South Louisiana fun! 🙂 Then when I return tonight, I will put a few entries in my agenda based on “4 ways to enjoy summer”! Thanks, T! Have a great summer!

  5. Summer for me means:
    1. Time with friends. That gets put on the back burner during the school year, and I make a point to make plans with my friends when I am off. By the way Tinashe, we should make a lunch date.
    2. Reading, Reading and more Reading, being a librarian, summer gives me a chance to catch up with what the kids are reading.
    3. This year I will attend the American Library Association Conference. It is in New Orleans this year. I am way psyched, but I am on the YALSA local area committee so I will have some official duties.
    4. I found this cool professional development that is free. Anyone hear about Edcamp? It is going to be at UNO on July 9th.
    Here is the URL: http://edcamp.wikispaces.com/edcamp+Louisiana
    It sounds right up your alley Tinashe, so check it out.
    5. Travel: Next week we will take a driving trip to the mountains of North Carolina. Too bad the high temps rival ours. I was hoping for some cooler weather. I have a girls trip to Houston planned in July–it is has been an annual event for the last three years.

  6. I’m with you, Mrs. Blanchet! I’m a devoted teacher and a closet workaholic. I have had to FORCE myself to refuse several lucrative summer jobs for the greater benefit of mental health! I’m exhausted! I need this time to shut down and rest so that I can be a better teacher next year, and I think that’s the point. Many of us become so passionate about our work that we forget about ourselves. VACATION!! VACATION!! VACATION!!

  7. I loved this Blog entry! I try to take at least one month every summer just for me. I usually try to work the other month, so I can afford to do the things I want to do during the “fun month”. This summer I am working during the month of June, but I am also allowing myself to take only one graduate class instead of two. I’ve taken two classes for the past two summers, and I feel that I need a break. Even though I’m working, I’m still enjoying the late summer days by swimming or riding bikes with my husband and son in the evenings. Seeing the world through the eyes of a three year old just seems to make all of your other stresses melt away. When July finally comes around, we have two trips planned. A week in Destin with my husband’s family, and a long weekend with my family at my parent’s house. Both trips will be relaxing and fun and much needed. Then it’s back to work in August.

    My goals for this summer?

    1. Get more sleep. By the end of the school year, I was averaging less than 5 hours of sleep per night. My goal is to be in bed by 11:00 on most nights so that 6:00 a.m. does not seem so early, and I have more energy all day long.

    2. Declutter. Like many of you mentioned, I started the path toward a cleaner house (and happier life) a couple of weeks ago, and it has already started to make a huge difference even everyone’s attitude around the house. My husband and I both have to get rid of 5 things (mail counts) each day. It’s become a contest as to who can get finished first. It makes us accountable for our clutter in a fun way, and my house has managed to stay relatively clean for a few weeks now. Another plus…you can already see under my bed!

    3. Enjoy life. It hit me a few weeks ago, as I watched my son chase the bubbles I blew in the backyard, that he is not going to be a preschooler forever. There will come a time where he will probably not want to hang out with me, and the sweet comments about how much he loves me will be replaced with the eye rolling I was so fond of doing to my parents as a teenager. While I know we will have many great memories to make in the future, I plan to enjoy every experience I can with him this summer.

    So that’s my summer! Yes, I know that professional growth is missing from my goals, but I work on that all year. To me the summer is all about recharging and renewing. See you all in August!

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