I closed the laptop, took a deep breath, looked at my husband, and said, “Next year, I want to be a really, really good teacher.”
He just laughed and shook his head, used to such proclamations by now. Because at the end of every single school year, I am consumed with how I am going to do better in a few short months when I get yet another do-over. It’s my favorite part of the job.
Who else gets a fresh start at work every 12 months? And who else gets two months to press pause on that work — rethink, refresh, and get a new running start into a brand new school year?
The problem is that I’m tempted to think too big, bite off more than I can chew, get overwhelmed, and then let the summer pass me by. I need a plan, and maybe you do, too. Here’s my plan to make the most of this summer & come back to school a better, stronger writing teacher!
The summer is the single best time for new learning. Without papers to grade and lessons to plan and clubs to sponsor, summer is when I can breathe and think deeply. While I do generally catch up on the professional reading I
didn’t get to during the school year, I try to pick a focus each summer — to learn how to teach one thing a little bit better than last year. This summer, I’m focusing on grammar instruction. Here are some ideas for professional learning this summer:
- Catch up on professional reading that will help you meet one of your goals for next school year.
- Find a workshop to attend — either live or online, like the amazing free workshops offered by The Educator Collaborative!
- Catch up on your blog reading! Find bloggers who write about the topics you are interested in learning more about. Find bloggers with perspectives and contexts that are very different from your own and see how their experiences might inform your own. This is the perfect time to get sucked into Internet wormholes!
I know I said that we need a plan to help us avoid taking on too much over the summer, so I’m not actually suggesting that you throw everything out that you have ever done before. But I do think that the summer is a wonderful time to entertain that idea and see how your curriculum shakes out. Whether you work in a notebook or a legal pad or a Google doc, spend a few minutes making this thinking tangible. You might be surprised what you find. Here are some ways you might do that:
Get your notebook, turn to a blank page, and map out the next school year in broad strokes — by months and weeks. Where will you begin? Then what? How will you wrap up? What might those units of study look like on a calendar and in a sequence?
- You know the One Little Word movement? You choose a
single word each January to focus on and make the theme of your upcoming year. (The Two Writing Teachers blog has done a whole series on this!) Choose “one little word” as a goal for each of your classes next year — what one word will be your focus as you meet your students in the fall?
Make your next-year to-do list! What are those big ideas, those lessons that you have tucked away for “next time” that you want to make sure you do in this upcoming school year? Make a list of those elements that have been on the back burner of your mind that you want to make sure that you tackle in this upcoming year!
Summer is the time to tackle that TBR pile. For a writing teacher, it’s also the time to enjoy all of that reading doubly — as a reader and as a teacher of writers. Of course you’re going to do professional reading. But you need to read for yourself as well.
As you read those novels by the pools and those articles in the The New Yorker, have your students in the very back of your mind and consider how you can get double duty out of your reading. Relaxation and rejuvenations for you and mentor text inspiration for your future students!
For me, this is one of the biggest gifts of the summer — time to write. Penny Kittle quotes Donald Murray as saying, “the writing teacher prepares for the writing class by using his or her own language to examine and share experience. The teacher understands the writing process because the teacher experiences it.”
This is daunting, right? It intimidates me. But Nancie Atwell reminds us that we only have to write just a little bit better than our students. That I can do.
Use this summer to continue a piece of writing that you have been slowly hacking away at (that’s what Allison & I will be doing!) or start something you’ve been thinking about but have been nervous to try. Write those poems, start that novel. Start a blog. Write about your own classroom for English Journal or the newly-edited Voices from the Middle (check out its awesome new podcast!).
Your own writing — however big or small, public or private — will instantly make you a better writing teacher.
As excited as we all are about the 2016-2017 school year, we need to each take the time to truly rest. To play and nap and swim and clean and shop and breathe and all the things that summer entails. Renew relationships. Enjoy the sun. You will be a better teacher in the fall because you have taken the time to reconnect with yourself and those things that are important in your life outside of school.
What are your must-dos for this summer — professionally and personally? What are your tips for making the most of this hiatus to become a better teacher in the fall? Leave me a comment! Find me on Twitter @RebekahOdell1! Or, find Moving Writers on Facebook!