There is a big difference between a student summer and a teacher summer. While students spend their summers playing with friends and going to camp, teachers are busy wrapping up the past school year and preparing for the next one. Educators take on second jobs, sign up to teach summer school, and have their own children or family members to take care of. It’s exhausting and your task list is endless.
It’s time to get organized during your teacher summer. You can take steps to protect your mental well-being and set your future self up for success. Here are 50 things to do between now and the first day of school.
- Sort your lesson plans from the past year into three categories: keep, toss, and improve. Work to replace lesson plans that you no longer want to use and improve other lessons that need to be modified.
- Try out different edTech tools – but only invest in the ones you believe in. Use the teacher summer to explore products and sign up for demos. Don’t overwhelm yourself with new tools. Managing these apps will be more work than you can handle come fall.
- Reflect on the past year. Did you have enough time to cover everything you needed to? If not, how can you adjust your lessons to allow for more time?
- Create buffer days in your lesson planning. These are periods that are eaten by assemblies, inclement weather closures, and general distractions. You can’t predict when you will lose class time, but you can prepare for it to happen.
- Develop activities and assignments for early finishers. These are students who will get bored if they can’t work ahead when they finish their assignments early.
- Create a folder of bookmarked video resources you can turn to in a pinch. These include educational YouTube channels and websites that create content for the grade level you teach. You can tap into these videos if you need a quick break in class.
- Start lining up guest speakers. Reach out to people who would provide value to your classroom. Even a basic introduction now can make it easier to lock them down during the school year.
- Audit every element of your classroom, from the bathroom passes to absentee folders. Do any processes need to be improved? Does anything need to be replaced? Make sure your classroom rules are ready for the first day of school.
- Review your substitute binder. Is there any information you want to add or remove? Are your substitute teachers prepared if they need to step into your classroom without any notice?
- Pick a theme for your classroom for the year. See if you can reuse or borrow classroom decorations so you don’t have to start from scratch.
- Consider making a safe space in your classroom for neurodiverse students – or any student who gets overwhelmed and needs some space. This could mean building a “calm-down corner” in your class or creating a hall pass where students can sit outside for a few minutes if they need a moment of quiet.
- Revamp your teacher website with new content. What do you want parents to know? What resources do you want to add?
- Think about how you will handle sensitive topics this year. How will you create a safe space for healthy discussions if your students ask questions about elections, Pride, racial issues, and climate change?
- Develop reusable resources that you can transfer from one classroom to the next. Laminate flashcards, find digital guides, and preserve other items so you don’t have to buy them again each year.
- Develop a grading survival kit. This is meant to streamline your grading process and reduce the amount of time you spend hunched over papers or reviewing projects. Find a process that makes grading easy for you.
- Find a lesson plan template you like. This will help you write out assignment details and a rubric quickly as you build lesson plans throughout the year.
- Spend any gift cards that you received from parents and students throughout the year. They aren’t doing you any good sitting in your drawer!
- Test each of your pens, paints, and markers to see if they work and can last the upcoming school year. Life is too short to deal with dried-out markers!
- Make a wishlist of supplies you would like to start the school year off strong.
- Visit garage sales, thrift stores, and swap meets in order to buff up your book collection. You might be able to find a few stacks of unwanted books in good condition because a child grew out of reading them.
- Launch fundraisers (if necessary and if they are allowed) to secure supplies for your students. This way you can understand your budget and resources ahead of the fall.
- Research classroom grants and other funding opportunities. There might be a unique way to get the resources you need.
- Commit to leaving school by a certain time each night this fall. Promise yourself you won’t get stuck working for hours after the school day ends.
- Create a schedule for the fall and stick to it. For example, some teachers select one night per week for lesson planning and grading. This frees up time on other days.
- Consider reducing the amount of homework you assign. Focus on quality over quantity and pull back if you feel overwhelmed by the amount of grading you have to do.
- Record explanations of key concepts – especially if you want to debut a flipped classroom in the fall. You can send these recordings to absent students so they can hear your explanations even if they miss class. Even present students might benefit from listening to these recordings later.
- Set new year’s resolutions ahead of the fall. How do you want to improve in the coming months? These can range from establishing a better work-life balance to achieving micro-certifications in your field.
- Join teacher communities on social media. You don’t have to do everything on your own! Find other educators who can offer support – or at least help you laugh at relatable teacher memes.
- Schedule a meet-up with your teacher friends. Spend some time getting to know each other outside of the classroom and away from the stress of work. Invest in your support system now so it will be there for you in the fall.
- Balance reading for fun with reading for learning. Pick up a few novels that you are excited about along with books on professional development. This way you can enjoy reading while also completing your learning goals.
- See if there are any conferences you want to attend with other educators in your field. (Bonus points if the conference is located in a popular vacation destination where you can set aside time to relax.)
- Stay up to date with school and district decisions or announcements. The fall is coming up faster than you realize.
- Pick up ideas from other teachers. Lurk on Pinterest and other teacher groups to discover lesson plans, classroom decorations, and management tips you like.
- Don’t overdo it with executing ideas – you don’t want your classroom to become visually overwhelming for you and your students.
- Make sure your teaching certifications and licenses aren’t about to expire. Check to see if you are required to complete additional training before the new school year.
- Standardize your communication with parents. Create email templates for sending progress reports and other updates for parents. If you can pull these pre-written messages from files and fill them out (Mad Libs-style) you can speed up your email response times.
- Identify roles for parent volunteers who work in your classroom. Write out clear responsibilities and guidelines. This way you won’t have well-meaning parents overstepping their boundaries.
- Identify your weaknesses when working with parents and ask your teacher community for help in the coming year. Do you struggle to tell helicopter parents to back off? Do you find it hard to get parents to respond to your requests? Other teachers have been in your shoes.
- Find relevant podcasts that explain topics at a grade-appropriate level for students. Recommend these to parents who want to listen to educational materials in the car.
- If you have multi-lingual students, learn a few basic phrases to connect with family members who don’t speak English. A few common words and phrases can show that you care.
- Clean out your closet. Donate clothes that you no longer want or no longer fit you. Fill in any gaps so you have a wardrobe ahead of the new school year.
- Set aside time for yourself. Don’t return to the classroom burned out. Take time for yourself this teacher summer, whether this means enjoying a cruise vacation or dedicating a set time each week to relax.
- Work on your Netflix queue. Watch the shows and movies you didn’t have time for during the school year.
- Improve your sleep schedule. Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Practice healthy sleep habits like reading before bed, avoiding screen time, and skipping alcohol and heavy foods late at night.
- Work on projects around the home that you put off until summer. It’s tempting to relax and delay these projects until the fall, but you will be happy to have a repainted bedroom or repaired sink once the new school year starts.
- Discover workouts you enjoy doing. Sign up for that dance class you have always wanted to try or invest in the kayak you have had your eye on. Make sure your workouts are so fun you won’t be willing to neglect them when the school year gets busy.
First Day Preparation
- Review your welcome letter to students and parents. What do you want your classroom family to know?
- Check in with your principal and admins to see if you have any roles or responsibilities on the first day. You may need to be a school greeter to take on carpool duty to help new students get where they need to go.
- Plan your outfit for the first day of school. You want to look and feel good, too!
- Plan a special event with your significant other, your family, or just by yourself in the final days before the new year. This can be as simple as watching the sunset the day before school starts or enjoying a romantic night out to salute summer.
- Do one thing this summer that scares you. This could range from going skydiving to learning a dance and performing it in front of others. It can be as simple as trying a new food item. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and enjoy the adrenaline and satisfaction that comes with it.
Check Out eSpark to Improve Your Lesson Planning
As you review your lesson plans and prepare for the fall, check out the adventures and quests offered by eSpark Learning. We offer a differentiated learning program so students can learn at their own pace and focus on topics they need to work on the most. Our games are fun, so kids learn through a system that is engaging and a positive part of their days.
Learn more about our activities to see how eSpark can improve your classroom experience this fall.