At the end of a school term, I sent off my students with a list of fifty tasks to complete over the summer. Certainly they were all optional, and some were more educational than others. This year, I want to give you as a teacher a bucket list for the summer. It will not include fifty tasks, and you will find yourself being drawn to some of the tasks more than others. It is an optional list to stimulate your thinking about ways that you can refuel before the new school term starts.
Relax & Rest
Teaching is a demanding vocation. While some may consider it an 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM job, anyone who has had the responsibility of educating young people on their shoulders knows that teachers are constantly planning, thinking, and preparing. You spent evenings attending parent teacher meetings and conferences and compiling report cards. You spent mornings in prayer, running through your day mentally as you drove to school, and double-checking to make sure that you had all your supplies and props on hand for the lessons that day. You spent afternoons checking student’s assignments, planning lessons, and agonizing over accommodations and support for your struggling students.
To successfully pass students on to the next grade level is an accomplishment. It is worth taking a break to simply relax and have no one to worry about except yourself. On that final day of school, you suddenly went from being responsible for twenty (more or less) students’ education to only being responsible for yourself.
Bask in the weight being lifted off your shoulders.
Refocus: What Is Your Purpose?
Certainly, we are all called to be Kingdom builders. We all have that broader purpose. However, what is your individual purpose within the Kingdom of God? What talents, gifts, passions, and personality has God given you in order to accomplish a certain role in His Kingdom? Take some time to focus on yourself—not for the sake of becoming self-centered, but so that you can better fulfill God’s purpose for your life.
If you do not already know the following, take some time to delve into each of these areas. If it has been more than five years since you analyzed these areas of yourself or if you have encountered a career/area of residence change, take the time to re-assess now. Your new situation may be calling out new giftings, a slight change of personality, or a different purpose for this season in your life. Find others who know you well to give you input as well, because you may find that others are able to assess you more accurately than you are able to assess yourself.
- Spiritual giftings. What are your top three? How are these gifts evident in your classroom? What is a gift that you would like to have? Are there ways in the next school term that you can work on developing this gift?
- Personality. Take a personality quiz or assessment such as the DISC, Enneagram, or the four temperaments test. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How does that play into your current vocation as a teacher? Who do you find yourself communicating well with/not so well with? What can you do about it?
- Passion. What do you care deeply about? Who has God given you a burden for? What dreams, desires, and visions has God placed on your heart? Is there a step that you can take during this coming school term that will kindle that passion and draw you closer to that dream?
- Past Experiences. What has God called you to so far? What have you been involved with? How have those experiences grown and shaped you into the person you are today? What assets do you have because of those experiences? What in those experiences has been detrimental to you?
After taking some time to consider the above areas, can you complete the following statement?
“I am called to ______________ (action word) using _________________ (your spiritual gifts) in order to focus on _______________ (your passion) expressing through _____________________ (particular ministries that I am involved with) so that ______________________ (what is accomplished) in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Showalter, 2018)
And if you have not chosen a life verse or a verse for this season of your life, now is the time to find it.
Refill and Receive
Go on an adventure. Travel. Take a road trip. Visit a continent that you have not explored yet. Visit a local museum. Become a tourist in your home area. During the school term, you focus on the education of your students. Now is the time to focus on your education. You have spent nine months out of the year investing in others’ brain development. Now is the time to invest in your own brain development. How do you plan on teaching your students about both the Kingdom of Heaven and the world the King has placed you in if you are not a life-long-learner of them yourself?
You have spent the majority of your days giving—instruction, correction, encouragement, and reproof. Now is your time to receive.
Ideas for refilling:
- Spend ten minutes a day learning the language of your choice via Duolingo
- Attend your church’s revival meetings or Summer Bible School as a student
- Go to music camp
- Spend six weeks out of your summer at Faith Builders to develop yourself as a teacher
- Find someone local to teach you how to play an instrument
- Take a cooking course
- Read books geared toward teacher growth and development
Revise and Renovate
Now that you have taken some time to relax, refocus, and refill, now is the time to revise. What worked or did not work from the past year? What should you tweak or completely revamp? What can you do differently to approach the math concept that most of the students never truly mastered last year? When you are in the middle of the school year, there is little time and energy to invest in thorough curriculum development and revamping. Now is the time to tackle that project. Is there one unit or one subject matter that you could rework now?
While changing the décor or organization of your room is more evident to the eye on the first day of school, true teacher growth comes about in the critiquing, editing, and revising of the content that you will be teaching throughout the year.
After you have spent adequate time revising what you will teach, then you can spend time renovating where you will teach.
Renovate your classroom:
- Organize and Declutter. Are you still keeping filing cabinets full of lesson plans or extension activities that the teacher fifteen years ago filed away in hopes that some day maybe you will find them useful? If you have taught two or more years and have not used an item that is taking up space in your classroom, now is time to either use it or let it go.
- Analyze your space. Are you making the best use of the space available to you? Could your classroom benefit from a more open plan? Do you need an additional bookcase or storage area? Is there any way to minimize the eye-sore in the corner? Where will your visiting parents sit? Where is the ideal spot for your desk? If your desk is in the back of the room, would a podium or rolling cart be the best for you to teach from? Organize the desks. Will your students work best in individual rows or as pairs or in groups? Can you arrange the seating areas in such a way that you can easily alternate between individual seating, paired seating, small group, and large group?
- Critique your classroom décor, posters, and bulletin boards. A mixture of aesthetic and educational is preferable. But often, classrooms can tend to be more aesthetic than educational or more educational than aesthetic. Which of those two areas does your classroom need more of?
- Give your students something to look forward to entering. I well remember the palpable excitement of the great revealing as an elementary student. There were several teachers who always had the most eye-catching rooms, and I looked forward to seeing how they had transformed the classroom for the year. And, as a teacher, I loved to watch the students excitedly roam from room to room during the first week of school commenting on the changes since they last saw the room in the spring.
We have heard it said that teachers teach for three reasons. Some for the enjoyment and love of the content that they teach, some teach for the relationships and interactions with students, and some teach for June, July, and August! I sincerely doubt that you are a teacher who teaches only for the love of summer vacation. However, it is here now, and it is a good thing. Use it to your advantage and personal growth.
Showalter, C. L., & Showalter, N. D. (2018). Discovery Handbook. Lancaster, PA: LMC.
CONTRIBUTOR: Kendra Martin