Teachers often celebrate the advent of summer vacation as much as their students celebrate. Specifically, teachers usually celebrate the down time, the rest and relaxation, and the much-needed break from grading papers that summer brings. To each of you who finished the school year well and gave 100% all year, cheers! You deserve all those things above. After all, you’ve earned them, having navigated new principals, parent conferences, spotty Wi-Fi, state testing and the other taxing challenges in the life of a teacher. I’ll be the first to wish each of you a restful, relaxing summer. However, if you want to stay sharp over the summer and be sharp when you return next school year, I'll also be the first to say you must add these three things to your summer to-do list. Strong language, I know, but these three things are non-negotiable.
1. Books. Read, and read voraciously. You expect your students to read throughout the school year, and reading over the summer sets a terrific example for your students. What better way to model lifelong learning? Does it matter what you read? Yes and no. I challenge you to read a variety of books this summer. Grab some beach reads or get lost in a fantastic world of wizards and dragons. Curl up with a creepy horror novel or take a white-knuckled thrill ride with spies and assassins. Whatever your leisure reading of choice, read some books that represent nothing more than a fun escape. Grab some professional reading, too, either in book form, in magazine form, or online. Don’t drop your craft like a hot potato for the whole summer. Do some professional reading. Finally, read something that challenges your own personal status quo. Find something that challenges you personally, socially, spiritually, professionally or in some other way. Growth can be difficult if we read only ideas to which we subscribe. Challenge yourself and read something that will push you. The bottom line is this: you need to read, read voraciously, and read a variety of things this summer. Not a big reader? Start now.
2. PLN. If you don’t have a Personal Learning Network, you should begin building your network this summer. If you have a PLN, expand. How? Start with the planet’s largest PLN (that just happens to be free): Twitter. Need a place to start, follow me on Twitter. I’m always looking to expand my PLN. Educators have invaded Twitter and more join every day. It’s the perfect place to connect with educators from around the world. Here’s another way to expand your PLN. Remember the conference you attended this year, and remember the lists of names and email addresses everyone exchanged? You know the one. It’s in your desk drawer. Grab the list and reach out to everyone on the list. Bam! Instant PLN. Remember the session leader(s) who encouraged everyone to call, write, email or connect on Twitter? Do it. Add them to your PLN, too. Want another cool (and free) way to build your PLN? Find an edcamp in your area and make plans to attend. I promise everyone there will be looking to expand their PLN, too. There really are no good excuses not to build or expand your PLN this summer. Your PLN can be an invaluable tool for you next school year, but you have to build it first.
3. That thing you do. You know that thing you do that makes life great? that thing you do that relaxes you, refreshes you, rejuvenates you, and brings you joy? Do it. And do it often. Whether it’s gardening, running, swimming, hiking, yoga, reading poolside, writing poetry, working with your hands, playing with grandchildren, or playing Xbox, you must do that thing you do. Many teachers sacrifice that thing altogether during the school year, or at least cut back. Get back into a routine this summer of doing that thing you do. You can’t and won’t be your best for your kids if you aren’t in prime physical and emotional health when class begins again. Therefore, if you won’t do that thing you do for you, do it for your kids, who need the best possible you.
Your to-do list this summer may be a mile long already, but you owe it to yourself not only to add these to your list but also to move them to the top. I hope you enjoy the best summer ever this year!