5 ways to work slow and steady through the summer
By Rachel Wilser
It’s summertime, teachers! Everyone is finally on break! Everyone take a victory lap! We made it to the summer. 😊 Whew! And while everyone definitely deserves to relax, I always liked to work a little bit during the summer at a slow and steady pace, so that I’m not feeling frantic at the end of the summer.
Back-to-school always feels busy, and if you’ve blown off school for the entire summer, it feels double-gross. Today, I’m sharing five ways to work slow and steady through the summer so you’re less rushed during back-to-school season.
- What can I do while relaxing?
Admittedly, this would be more difficult in the season of life I’m currently in, but pre-kids I would set a small daily goal for myself and take it with me to the pool or the backyard and work outside. I might work through a reading or phonics unit and check the pacing and timing of the unit plan against what actually happened, then make adjustments. This would generally take a few hours, so it is certainly possible to accomplish tasks while relaxing and still move on to other things during the day.
- Set small, bite-sized goals.
Planning to do lofty and/or intangible things can derail your entire day. When you set your summer goals, make sure you’re setting specific, small goals. Instead of writing in your to-do list “review writing units,” get more specific. What do you really want to do to your writing units? For example, write “review mentor texts in writing units” or “plan publishing days in writing units.” Setting more specific goals will help you be more productive over the long run.
- Set two to three overall summer goals.
It’s difficult to do everything over the summer; you have commitments with your kids, friends, family; maybe a vacation. School does not need to run your summer. But it’s smart to set a few large goals for the summer to help you keep on track, such as “refresh math scope and sequence” or “create new arrival routine.” I would strongly suggest that you max out at three large summer goals. Even if it feels like you have more than three goals, I’d start with the three more important or essential so you can still enjoy your summer. Plus, setting goals for the summer will help with number two, above. You can back those large goals down to smaller tasks, with a clear map of what you need to do on a particular day, week, or month to achieve these larger goals.
- Set timers for everything.
An embarrassing but true fact about myself is that even at 35, tasks occupy the amount of time I give them. What I mean is that sometimes tasks balloon to fill the time. For example, I can fold a load of laundry in probably about 20 minutes. But if I sit down to fold laundry while also watching a show, it will take the entire time of the show — whether it’s a 22-minute sitcom or a 45-minute drama. So to keep myself on track, I set timers for basically every task, especially in the summer. Even writing this article, I set a timer. I assumed it would take me about an hour to get a working draft, so I set a timer for 50 minutes. At the end of 50 minutes, my plan was to save and close, even if I wasn’t finished, and then I return to it either later the same day (after I’d worked on a few other things), or the following day. I even set timers for kitchen clean-up after dinner.
- Select one new thing for the school year.
It’s tempting over the summer to think about doing massive overhauls to your classroom and/or routines, and this is a great time of year to reflect. BUT make sure you exercise caution when you’re thinking about what you want to try out. It’s not a good idea to attempt five new routines or procedures in your classroom. If you change or attempt too many new things, none of them will be successful. You’ll feel overwhelmed, and they’ll all flop. In order to identify the one new thing I want to try, I think about my biggest pain point during the previous school year, and try to create something to alleviate that pain point. Sometimes, this procedure might come from a book, a professional development, or even another teacher, but summer is a great time to reflect and create a new procedure.
It’s important to relax over the summer; you should not let preparing for the next school year take over the summer. Taking care of yourself is really your first priority over the summer, but with minimal, organized effort you can prepare for the school year while enjoying your summer.
Rachel Wilser has spent the better part of a decade in classrooms around the country — in private, public, charter, elementary, and middle schools. Now, she chases twins and drinks coffee while planning her return to the classroom.
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