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!
- Summer reading
- Have fun!
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
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…
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.
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!