Making the Most of the Summer: Setting Manageable Goals

5 ways to make a plan for summer that allows for rest and rejuvenation

By Rachel Wilser

For most, the school year is over already, or will end soon. In either case, you should congratulate yourself on another great year in the books. I would never tell you what to do, but I think it’s important to do a school detox after the year ends. Give yourself a few weeks where you don’t do anything for school. Nothing. Not even going to Target. A total detox. And after your detox, don’t jump back in. Ease back in.

Teaching is really demanding, and shutting your teacher self down is a great way to re-energize and rejuvenate after the school year. It’s like running a marathon. No one finishes a marathon and immediately starts running again; everyone rests and relaxes for several days. You can’t fill from an empty cup.

While you’re easing back into your summer teacher mode, I’d encourage you to reflect on the school year that just passed, and set some goals for both the summer and the upcoming school year. Think about what went well, what you’d like to keep the same, but also think about what you’d like to change and/or improve upon. Reflecting can help you set goals, but when you set goals it’s helpful to keep a few things in mind.

  1. Don’t set too many goals
    If you set too many goals, you’ll feel frustrated and overwhelmed. I like to set about 3-5 goals per month, depending on how time consuming and complex they are. I’m also going to sneak in here that I like to actually write my goals down, but I’m probably a bit more analog than most in this regard. Whether you write them down in a notebook, your calendar, or type them in an app, you should definitely record your goals (so you can celebrate when you achieve them!).
  2. Don’t make all your goals school-related
    We’ve established that teaching is time-consuming, but school isn’t (or shouldn’t be) your entire life. So set a goal or two that isn’t school-related. Maybe it’s to run three times a week; call your best friend once a week; go to the pool on the weekend; or read a book for pleasure. You’ll feel just as gratified to cross off your non-school goals, and you’ll be pouring back into yourself and getting ready for the next school year.
  3. Set specific goals (so you can celebrate when you achieve them!)
    Celebrating success is an important part of staying motivated; if you’re constantly focusing on how far you have to go to achieve your goals you become defeated and productivity becomes more difficult. Conversely, if you’re setting smaller goals and giving yourself and metaphorical (or even a literal) pat on the back on a consistent basis you’re more likely to stick with it and achieve even more in the long run. Setting specific goals makes it clearer when you achieve them, but it also makes the steps you need to take to reach your goal clearer. For example, “exercise 5 days a week during June” is a much clearer goal than “lose weight”. Exercising 5 days a week is likely to help me achieve the less tangible goal of losing weight, but I’m able to schedule time daily to help myself achieve the first goal. “Read 20 minutes a day” is a clearer goal than “read.”
  4. Goals supersede a to-to list
    Yes, there are lots of things that teachers need to do over the summer, and I think that you should keep a running to do list. I liked to keep mine in an app (Evernote and Google Tasks are my top choices), so that it was always available to me, even if I was out and about. But the great part about goals is that they superseded your to-do list, and frame your day. So, if I know that my major goal is to have my math units written by August, my July goal might be to write 2.5 units. If I reach that goal I don’t have to take my foot off the gas; I can keep working towards my overarching goal. And if I know that I want to write 2.5 units during July, I might know that I need to plan a week of instruction every four or five days. This lets me plan my days. If I have a busy day where I might not have time to work on the math plans, I can move it to another day where I have more time. Setting goals rather than a to-do list.
  5. Schedule your goals
    You can use your goals as a frame, or you can get really nitty-gritty with schedules that involve hour chunks on the side. I personally prefer a frame, so one day I might focus on writing math units; another I might focus on creating unit or novel studies, and so on.

Whether you make the most of your summer outside or inside, make sure to take the time to set some goals! Your future self will thank you.

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.