How to Enjoy Your Summer While Growing Professionally as a Teacher

Dana Garth, Elementary School Educator, Mentor, & Speaker

McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas
5 min readJun 10, 2024

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As the school year comes to an end, it can come with a mix of emotions: excitement, relief, exhaustion, and anticipation, just to name a few. Summer provides a much-needed break for hard-working teachers, students, and staff. It should be a time of recuperation from the previous school year of lesson planning, testing, reviewing, field trips, and all that comes with being an educator. As much as it is a time of relaxation, it can also be a time of reflection and professional development.

A Time to Slow Down

According to studies, the number of decisions teachers make each day is estimated to be about 1,500. Yes, one thousand five hundred decisions a day! It is no wonder many teachers state they experience mental fatigue at the end of each day. Some teachers, during the school year, choose to eat lunch alone in silence just to experience a mental break from all the activities. Others go home after school with just enough energy to take care of responsibilities and then lay on the couch for the rest of the night until they have to do it all over again. “Teacher tired” is very much a real thing. No matter what summer plans are in the works, it is a time to simply not have to make over a thousand decisions. This alone can put the mind at ease, but being intentional about mindfulness this summer can lead to better mental health overall. Why not wake up a bit earlier than others in the home (hopefully not too early!) to have a hot morning drink quietly? Maybe carve out time for an afternoon walk or run just because the schedule allows it now. Your brain will thank you for simply slowing down.

Reflection

Now that the school year is over, it is a great time to reflect on the year that has passed. Being honest will only yield the best results while thinking of what went well this school year, what can be changed for next year, and how to implement those changes. Think of systems that you’d like to continue, such as how the students collaborated and/or participated during class or how students ended the day. Think of lessons you’d like to (or need to) change. Reflect on the lessons that students excelled in. Think about why those lessons went well and how to continue to do them next year. If a change needs to occur, what exactly needs to be changed and how? Keep in mind, these ideas may change again, so no need to stress!

A great way to reflect is also to simply ask the students! Students are the ones who are impacted the most throughout the school year in class. Why not get their feedback? If grade/age appropriate, students can complete an End-of-Year survey about their class and teacher. Include questions like “What lesson/project/activity did you most enjoy? Why?” or “Did you feel as though I had high expectations of you?” It may be very eye-opening to read and hear the results!

Educational Conferences

Summer provides teachers the opportunity to attend a plethora of educational conferences! Educational organizations often host summer workshops and conferences focused on many aspects of teaching, curriculum development, classroom management, and educational technology. These events allow attendees to network, learn from experts, and gain new insights into teaching practices. For example, the Innovative Schools Summit offers sessions that focus on social and emotional learning, innovative teaching strategies, and school climate and culture. The 2024 Model Schools Conference (formerly ICLE) allows educators to engage in a PLC (professional learning community) with other educators and learn best practices through hands-on learning. ISTELive 24 has been recognized as one of the world’s most influential education conferences, with a focus on educational technology and STEAM! There are countless conference opportunities (including virtual) waiting for attendees to gain something to bring back to the classroom and schools.

Study Abroad Teacher Programs

Some teachers participate in teacher exchange programs or study abroad opportunities during the summer to gain new perspectives on education and to immerse themselves in another culture! One program is the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program, which offers opportunities for U.S. and international teachers to participate in exchange programs, allowing them to teach, conduct research, and collaborate with colleagues in other countries. Participants typically swap teaching positions for a semester or academic year. Teach Away is another popular program that offers many international teaching opportunities. Educators can exchange positions with teachers in other countries for a specified period.

In-Service Training

Professional development can occur without leaving the state, country, or hometown. Many school districts organize in-service training sessions for teachers during the summer break. These sessions may focus on district-specific initiatives, new curriculum standards, or strategies for addressing the needs of diverse learners. District and/or school-provided professional development is free for teachers and staff and usually includes sessions that pertain to the following school year. This could also be a great opportunity to BE the one providing professional development to other educators within your district. Who better to offer this than the ones experiencing the classroom firsthand?

However educators choose to spend their summer vacation, may it be a time of embracing the much-needed break! Teachers and staff deserve it!

Dana Garth is an academic literacy coach, mentor to new teachers, and educational podcast host for “Calm & Collected Classroom”! She has a passion for creating engaging and rigorous learning tools through the use of technology. She also loves teaching others about and implementing social and emotional learning lessons in and out of the classroom for better communities.

You can find and follow her on the following platforms:

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McGraw Hill
Inspired Ideas

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