OK…you are a first year teacher and you’ve made it through your first year of teaching…no what?
It Summer! YAY!!!
It’s that time of year when “other people” like to think we teachers:
1) Hang out at Starbucks all day (We live for coffee…but c’mon!)
2) Take really long vacations to exotic countries for months at a time (On a teacher’s salary? Really?)
& My Personal Favorite…
3) Sit around doing nothing ALL DAY! (Who actually does that?)
The fact is, summer is a great time for teachers to advance their #knowledge and #skills, and hone their #curriculum and #pedagogy, all the while basking in the love of family and friends. In the past, I’ve aimlessly wondered through my summers. I was productive, but I really, really love my family time and I tended to put off getting ready for the coming year until the last week of Summer Break.
Don’t get me wrong…family comes first, so we do a lot of stuff together over break. My wife and I are both teachers and our girls are students, so we make the most of our summers. And that is how it should be. But if we start off the summer with a plan, and we focus on family first and leaving a small amount of time for career each day, our summer has the potential to become extremely fun…and productive. Heck, there are even times when we can multi-task… work on “school stuff” while having a blast with the family.
We simply need to have a wonderful time with family and friends, and then focus on finding time for the #Summertime #Teacher #BLUES
By making it a point to carve out time for Branding, Looking, Uncovering, Exercising, and Strategizing, or B.L.U.E.S., we can enjoy our summer with family and friends, and enter the Fall semester refreshed, healthy, and ready to be productive educators. If we take time to work on these 5 areas over the break, I believe we can start living a more balanced life all the while becoming experts in our individual disciplines. We can be the experts that other educators seek for wisdom and classroom hacks. And more importantly, we can become Rock Star educators who have the ability to pass along knowledge to students in life changing fashion. Let me explain.
Brand Yourself (and Your Stuff)
Branding? Mitch, what the heck are you talking about? You want me to join a cattle drive?
I’m taking about branding yourself as an educator. At the end of the day, we are all experts in our various disciplines. We put tons of time into our craft, and we are even recognized from time to time for our work. I mean come on…we spend 8-14 hours a day specializing in #Math, #English, #Social Studies, #Science, #Art, #Music, #Technology, #Computer Science, #P.E., etc. during the school year…we know a little something about our subject matter.
We’ve learned to deliver our lessons in a way that engage students and helps them to better understand the content. We even have other teachers coming to us for input on how to enhance their classrooms. So it only makes sense that we share our wisdom and help others grow as educators in an effort to create the best possible learning environment for our students. The best way to initiate this process is to brand yourself and your awesome products. That way your “stuff” is connected to your name, which makes it easier for other educators to find you and collect much needed wisdom from you.
So this summer, I’d love to see you carve out time to build a blog/website, share your ideas, and maybe even create a Teachers-Pay-Teachers site where you can benefit monetarily from your efforts. Or write an e-book that walks educators through cool lesson plans that have become effective and efficient staples in your classroom. You can charge for the e-book or not…your choice. The main thing is you’re getting your ideas out there…you’re branding yourself…and classrooms (students) are benefitting from your knowledge.
Another great way to brand yourself is to start sharing and collaborating with other educators via Periscope, Facebook, and even Snapchat.
Since joining Snapchat and connecting with teachers, I’ve learned a ton, and shared my own ideas and classroom strategies. The medium is perfect for teacher interaction and knowledge exchange. AND…it’s a great way to get your name out there…or in other words…brand yourself. It is also a great place to be yourself and get to know really cool educators who share similar lifestyles, hobbies, and family experiences.
That reminds me…go join my Snapchat (mitchfair) using the Snapchat Code below:
Oh, and if you haven’t joined Snapchat yet…DO IT!!! There are tons of teachers out there sharing their experiences and your ideas would be a great addition to the conversation.
You are a Rock Star Teacher, why not create a brand around your treasury of experience and wisdom? Go…#BrandYourself !
Look At What Worked (and What Didn’t Work)
Reflect! Reflect! Reflect! Oh, and #REFLECT ! ! !
Let’s face it, as teachers, we won’t get better unless we examine what is keeping us from excelling. That means we need to look at the year, reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and capitalize on what our best practices were (and throw away or deeply evaluate and correct what went wrong).
YES…we all have losses throughout the year. Most of the “stuff” we implement in our classroom works well…but some ideas we have are “stinkers.” We need to take those ideas that “stunk” and either hone them so they are more effective, or trash them to make room for something more productive.
One thing that our school does, that I #LOVE, is that we reflect on our lesson plan after it is completed. We actually go into our lesson plan software (paper forms of lesson plans are fine too) and then reflect on what aspects of the lesson worked and what didn’t. That way we can go back later (summer break…hello), read our notes, and adjust our lessons as need be.
I encourage you to implement a lesson plan reflection strategy that allows you to go back (over the summer) and fine tune your curricular goals. This process has helped me immensely, and more importantly…it has benefited my students. After all, our students don’t want to take part in a lesson that is boring and non-informative.
Another great way to look back on what worked and what didn’t is to start handing out surveys to your students. They will be able to tell you quickly what they thought worked and what less effective. When done at the end of the school year, the student surveys can be reflected upon over summer break, and issues that need to be addressed can get addressed.
Our students deserve the best…so #LOOK AT WHAT WORKED AND WHAT DIDN’T!
Uncover New Experiences To Share With Students (and Teachers)
This is where our family time can meld with our work time. Let me explain. This summer, our family has plans to go to the Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg, TX. It is a World War II museum full of everything from historical artifacts to live reenactments of WWII battles.
As a Design/Technology teacher, I’m always looking for ways to bring historical content into the classroom and discuss engineering’s impact on history. So, I will be photographing, and narrating short videos from the museum (I don’t care if people look at me funny) that I can take back to our classroom. I will be able to dive into our coding units with footage of the technology that cracked the German’s enigma code. Coding is not only the soon to be “It” profession, de-coding (debugging) was a crucial part of history that helped turn the tide of the Second World War.
Reading about new and evolving classroom strategies is another great way to hone our teaching skills as well. There are tons of cool lessons out there that can enhance the student’s classroom experience. Research them, find them, and then plan out how best to implement them in your classroom. You know your students best, so find great ideas, and shape them into something fantastic for your class, and then watch your students grow through newly found learning tactics.
Another great way to introduce new experiences to students is to research all of the new apps that seem to come out on a daily basis. Need a place to start? Check out THIS ARTICLE over on EdTechCircus.com. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of great apps that can be used to enhance the student’s classroom/learning experience. Go…Seek Them Out…#UNCOVER THE POSSIBILITIES!
This is really a call to action for ME…but I’ll bet there are some others out there who could stand to lose a couple of pounds…and maybe even stand to gain better eating habits. I mean, I try to workout during the year, but finding time to do so is hard. What I’ve found is that when I have a strong summer workout/diet routine in place before entering the Fall semester, the better I am at being healthy.
Likewise, on those years where I go back into the Fall semester with little to no workout/diet regimen…I gain weight like the Titanic gaining salt water. And it is hard as heck to get into a routine once school begins.
So, find time to implement a daily (or weekly) workout strategy. I’m waking up early and walking 3 miles a day. In the past, this has done wonders for my health (both physical and mental health). I also love to see student reactions to my loss of weight when I return…it is encouraging.
A healthy educator is a productive educator. Our mental health (focus) is sharper, and of course our physical health is on point…and if you are an elementary teacher, you need all the physical health you can get. Those little guys never stop.
An added benefit…your chances of living longer, thus enjoying your family and friends longer, increase. So Go… #EXERCISE ! ! !
Strategize For The Upcoming Year
Alright, you’re working on your brand, you’re looking back on what worked and what didn’t, you’re uncovering new ideas for your classroom, and you’re working on your exercise/diet routine so that you can be the best educator you can be.
The final stage of the Summertime Teacher B.L.U.E.S. strategy is to take it all into account and #STRATEGIZE for the upcoming year. Plan, plan, plan!
Think about how you are going to use your time wisely to work on your brand beyond the summer months. Envision, after looking back on last year’s lesson plans, how you will better incorporate and expound upon what worked. Contemplate how best to include all of the really cool classroom ideas you’ve uncovered. And, consider how you will continue your newly acquired exercise and diet routines.
In other words, strategize how best to take the ideas and experiences you’ve had over the summer break, and incorporate them in your Fall and Spring semesters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work…if you’re in education because you thought it was going to be easy…Ummmm…you’re in the wrong line of work.
But here is the thing…I’m right there with you, and more importantly, there are hundreds of thousands of educators right beside you. Together, we can create awesome learning environments that benefit the student, the teacher, the parents, and the administrators. All we need to do is start with a plan…and there is no better time that right now to do just that. Let this Summer be the summer you begin to utilize your Summertime Teacher B.L.U.E.S.
Have A Wonderfully Productive Summer!!!