- The Student-Teaching Model Is Outdated: Here's How We Can Do Better - September 15, 2021
- Visualize: How Seeing What's Coming Changed My Teaching - August 16, 2021
- 10 Lessons About Teaching from My Youngest Son - June 24, 2021
- Ending the Epithet “Try-Hard” Once and for All in Classrooms - June 18, 2021
- From STEM, Let's Pivot to the BRANCHES of the Humanities - May 25, 2021
- Would Education Collapse If Teachers Stopped Working for Free? - May 20, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part II - April 21, 2021
- 8 Tips So Your Substitute Plans Don't Suck - April 14, 2021
- 10 Ways to Teach Like Ted Lasso: Part I - March 12, 2021
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers: Habit 3 - First Things First - February 26, 2021
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One June 7th, all the students in my class and at my school cleaned out their lockers, shed a few tears, glued big smiles on their faces, and loaded on the buses one last time for the 2012-13 school term. When I looked around to my colleagues, I saw almost the same. Just bigger smiles.
Two weeks later, I'm starting to make a list of things I have or want to accomplish this summer before I'm meeting my 8th group of students next year. I want to share my list in hopes of inspiring you to grow more and know more, and bring the best you to your classroom in the fall. While Editor Cari Harris has already composed a list of "5 Ways to Use This Summer Break," (link to article: ) I'd like to add to 20 items to it:
1. Take a break - I can't tell you how absolutely, freakin' exhausted I am come May. That's also about the time all my non-teacher friends start callously saying, "Man, you are so lucky to have off for the summer" or "What are you complaining about, Jake - you have off the entire summer." It takes every ounce of my being to get through that time frame, and, come June 12th - our first day of summer - I just wanted to run to an open field and lay up and look at the clouds for a few hours. Teachers are one of the most depression- and anxiety-laden professions on the earth, and if we spent more time giving ourselves R&R, everyone would be better for it.
2. Find a manual summer job - In years past, I have always taken a manual labor job for two reasons. First, I like doing labor-intensive, less mindful work to get a good workout and take a mental break from the stretched stress I experience in the classroom. Second, come August, my brain is sharpened like all the pencils in my students' backpacks, ready for intuitive discussion, creativity, and questions.
3. Teacher summer school - The past 2 summers I've taught summer school, last year teaching American government to two seniors who both registered to vote - one as a Republican, one as a Democrat - before leaving class. This July, I'll be teaching writing at a Youth Development Center (corrections camp). I really like teaching summer school because I often come across students who are dying to be inspired, and I like helping them find their way.
4. Earn your next degree - Three summers ago I thumped in 18 credits worth of classes, helping me to finish my M.Ed. in Educational Leadership and Principalship K-12 in just a calendar. I certainly stretched myself thin then, but I'm glad I took that approach because it allowed me to focus more on my classroom. In the summer of 2015, I'll begin my Ph.D. in a similar manner.
5. Learn informally - If you already have your degree, can't afford the degree, or just don't want the degree, teachers still don't have an excuse not to learn. We expect our students to grow in leaps and bounds under our tutelage, and we owe it to them to do the same for ourselves. Check at the local colleges and intermediate units in your area. In the summer of 2007, I took "Middle School Literacy," which was the most influential class on my pedagogy, as a week-long, free course through the IU. The college 2 miles from my home just finished "Teachers as Scholars" week, providing me 2 free classes on "Writing in the Digital Age" and "Christianity and the Founding Fathers." All of these were incredibly influential and incredibly free.
6. Take a teacher's study tour - Two summers ago I took a two-week trip to Turkey via their Teacher Study Tour and loved every minute of it. While I don't think I'd like to be there this summer - there's something unappetizing about civil unrest - I plan on going back to visit this magical land some other time in my life. It's also prompted me to want to travel to another country on a study tour, as most of them are very highly subsidized by the nation you're visiting (I paid only $600 total to travel to Turkey).
7. Spend a few days on your curriculum - Instead of traveling the world, travel to your computer and look at the unit that gives you and your students the most trouble. Make it better. You'll thank yourself for it when you reach it in the midst of the hectic school year.
8. Update / create your classroom webpage - I'm finally incredibly proud of my webpage, which should be able to field every question a student has. Should.
9. Integrate one piece of technology into your classroom - Two years ago, I worked hard at learning about and playing with Prezi, introducing that into my classroom instead of rote PowerPoints. Last year we fully integrated Edmodo as a way for my 7th graders to be introduced to social media, and so the introverted students had a way to beef up their participation grade. This year I'm working on my Twitter, which you can follow @MrJakeMiller.
10. Read some of the articles on The Educator's Room - I don't know about you, but when my professional and personal life meet at the apex of something we all call the school year, I find it difficult to keep up with current, best practices. I think the writers here at TER do a fantastic job of informing us, but, I'll be the 1st to admit, I don't always read as much as I'd like to. I haven't read much the last 2 weeks, but the articles on here have upheld the high standards we keep for and expect of ourselves.
11. Take your principal or a retiree out to lunch - I think both of these groups of educators are overwhelmed with a different set of challenges and under-utitlized by teachers everywhere. Take them out for lunch, talk shop, and learn something from them. You'll be pleasantly surprised.
12. Do something you've always wanted to do - Speaking of, do something completely radical. Take good risks. Buy and flip a house. Do a missionary trip. Go to every baseball team's stadium. Start a groundbreaking educator-based movement like Fran did a few years ago in creating this site.
13. Read up on the Common Core - The pendulum swing is back to national standards. With 45 states now adopting the CCSS, it's up to you to read about it and become an expert. If you do great, thorough, thought-provoking things with your students already (as most of this readership does), it will be an easy transition. If you become a specialist in it, you can become a consultant (note: we at TER have been asked on multiple circumstances to write more about the CCSS).
14. Read the new books on your bookshelf - At home and at school, I have a bookshelf that's severed into 2 - the bottom half has books that I've already read, and the top ½ has books that I have in my "need to read" section. If you're like me, that top ½ grows more quickly than the bottom with each trip to book sales, yard sales, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, so it's time for me to pluck away.
15. Write your own book - Cari Harris, the aforementioned Editor here at TER, spend the last year writing her own book - How to Finish the Test When Your Pencil Breaks - about the struggles of being an unemployed teacher. A group of us are finishing the third book for the web site here called Tales from the Front Lines: The Good, the Bad, and the Funny. I'm also starting to write a social studies-based book with lesson plans and fun strategies. It's fun and not work, and it has possible dividends in the future.
16. Spend a few days on your classroom - Instead of focusing on words, a teacher can pop into their classroom for a week and make the atmosphere better. Put some fresh paint on your walls. Spray paint your desk a wild color (mine was 1980's olive and is now a bright red). Have fun with the students' desks like fellow-writer Paula Kay Taylor Glass has. Make a new bulletin board. String intriguing quotes across your room. A better, cozier atmosphere makes for better learners.
17. Look for a new position - I feel that all educators owe it to themselves to just look every once in a while. I loved my previous job, but that's how I ended up in my new job. While I still couldn't be happier, it can't ever hurt to just look to see what's out there. At the very least, it helps those fantastic students we've had in class that we hope and pray become teachers themselves.
18. Speak to your state legislators and Members of Congress - The job market for teachers would be eons better of the political climate for education were better both nationally and in every state. We've been writing about the State of Education, a view of each and every state's education (for lack of a better word) "situation," and from what I've found is we can help stamp out the anti-teacher, anti-education sentiment by going and meeting with our federal, state, and local officials. Why? Well, first of all, we finally have the time, and, second of all, the legislators are continuously focused on passing budgets by the end of June. It's our job to help them understand just how important education dollars are.
19. Volunteer somewhere - Some things are just bigger than the classroom, than politics, than our students, and ourselves. There are so many understaffed, community-based places that are dying for a hand. If every teacher took just one day of their summer and volunteered - maybe even bringing some of their students or their own children along - we'd make for a better world.
20. Spend time doing the important things - Though a generic recommendation and each person will define this in their own way, it's a necessary to be stated and stated last. Whatever you can't live without in your life, spend time focusing on it / them this summer. Come August, you'll be glad you had, as you'll return to your classroom with a bigger smile than the one you left.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]