It’s September. Your feet have probably not stopped moving for a few weeks, with the start of school, the meetings, getting to know your students, setting up all the systems and explaining all the procedures, learning about all the new changes in your schools.
You might feel like your brain has too many tabs open.
Stop for a moment. Summer is not yet a disappearing memory. And while summer can be busy in different ways, with other work, professional development, family travel and childcare, it can also give us shiny jewels of ways of being that can last all year. I’m hoping you had a chance to stop — really stop — and enjoy some time with friends and family. That can be the fuel that helps guide the school year.
Here are 5 summer mindsets to bring into the new school year.
We can be so serious as educators, and that makes sense. We have so many balls in the air and things to do. The work is complex, changing, and emotionally draining.
But remember a time that you played frisbee, threw a ball this summer? Or spent hours in a kayak, on a trail, sitting on a dock, or exploring a new place? What did that feel like? Can you picture doing something just because it was fun?
We can embrace playfulness with our students and colleagues whenever possible. I have a former colleague who embraced playfulness on most days. She would jump out of recycling bins, make a face across the room, and had a contagious, easy laugh.
Her class even did spontaneous flash mobs to the neighboring class, sparking a year long flash mob contest. Why?
Because learning and getting along with people can be hard. A fews minutes of joy and playfulness can promote belonging, relieve stress, and build community.
What would it take for you and your colleagues or students to surprise your school with a back-to-school flash mob?
2. Wonder and curiosity
Summer has many wonders — warmer temperatures, diving into cool water, the taste of fresh fruit and garden vegetables, hummingbirds, fireflies, going barefoot. When we can stop, and watch, and notice, we see a lot.
Take a little moment to wonder: how does that monarch know when it is time to fly to Mexico? How do the hummingbirds’ wings beat so fast?
What if you got curious about that student who keeps jumping up and out of his seat, or that colleague that often interrupts. What do you notice? Consider, what might that person need? If we pull ourselves into a space of curiosity instead of judgement, frustration, or anger, how might our day improve? How might that interaction, and the moment, change?
And as for wonder, as busy teachers it is easy to overlook the simple, beautiful and profound
- Did an introverted student participate today for the first time?
- Did that student who was struggling to make eye contact with you give you even a fleeting look, or a small smile?
Take a moment, and wonder about it, like you might the hummingbird. Life moves fast, and these moments are fleeting, but they are what we have. They are worth a moment of wonder.
3. The spirit of self care
Teaching is hard, outward-facing work. So many decisions, responses, emotions, things to keep track of. The work is never done. There is always more prep to do; more resources to explore; a neverending pile articles (or links) to read; dozens of emails to return.
Somehow, for a little bit in the summer, teachers give themselves the chance for some self care. To engage in a bit of reading for pleasure. To take a yoga class, go for a hike, visit family or friends, or just swing in a hammock.
I really hope you have had some time for this, and can bring more of it into your school year.
Whatever self care might look like for you, I hope you can take a little of this spirit and carve out 5, 10, or 30 minutes a day to take care of yourself: to get outside, exercise, meditate, listen to music, talk with a friend, or read a book for pleasure. When you do this, everyone benefits: our students, families, and colleagues.
From learning about project-based and service learning, we know reflection is a key part of learning. Students can deepen and extend their learning through regular reflection. Often my best reflection and ideas about how to change or improve my teaching practice and curriculum came during the summer.
This time away from the space physically, and engaging in something other than teaching, helped me to reflect.
Teaching can be so reactive and harried, leaving little time for reflecting on a lesson, an activity, or unit. How can we pull some of that summer reflection into the school year?
- Can it be some self assessing on a project?
- Some thought provoking questions about your class?
- Could it be a weekly entry on a Google Doc?
Creating a small bit of time and space for reflection, whether in a PLC, PLN, or prompting questions, reflection can powerfully impact practice. Reflection shouldn’t just happen in the summer, these ideas for teacher reflection can be used all year.
5. Step outside of your comfort zone (try something new)
In summer we are more likely to visit a new place, or try a new activity. It might be finding your airbnb in a new city, or backpacking for the first time, or trying a new type of food.
We can bring this spirit into the school year by trying new approaches, tools, and activities with our students, then reflecting on how it went. There are so many amazing resources available about how to personalize learning, engage students in meaningful work, and to help us reach all learners.
Did you read about an idea on Twitter the night before? Why not try it? Tell your students you are trying something new, and that you want feedback about what they thought. They will see you as a reflective, adventurous, and responsive teacher, modeling learning and growth mindset for them.
One last note–
I realize that many folks may have suffered a loss this summer, or have struggled in other ways, and might not have had opportunities for these activities. But maybe you can recall a summer that you did have a bit of time to rest, explore, play, or reflect, even years ago. Call on that spirit when you need it this year.
We’re all rooting for you.