That last day of school, the real last one in which we finalize all our paperwork and turn everything in, always comes as such a relief. Just sit with that memory for a minute: remember how it felt to walk out of the building knowing that everything was done, all grading, planning, paperwork, emails, parent phone calls, all of it, and that everything was going to stay done for awhile until it was time to head back in for the next year. It's a lovely memory.
Then come the memories from summer: sleeping in late, finally getting that project done, having the time to truly reflect and even start planning for the coming year, going to the bathroom whenever we want, spending time with loved ones even during the day, fun reading, and so many more. Summer is almost always a chance to rest, recharge our completely spent batteries, and remember who we are when we aren't teaching. I have often said teachers would go crazy without summer, even the shorter summer year-round schools get. Summers keep us sane.
What if we could take summer into our school year? What if we could find ways to take that rejuvenation and relaxation into our classrooms and schools? The following are just a few ideas I have discovered in the last few years to help extend the positive effects of summer, but please, post more ideas in the comments.
1. Plants. Having plants in the classroom can be a real pain, but they sure help soften edges and help us remember there is a real world outside. Add in their health benefits, and it's worth remembering to water them and take them home during long breaks. We may not be able to work in our gardens or get outside during the school year as much as we often do during the summer, but we can get a few plants for our classrooms to help bring summer in.
2. One night off a week. I started taking Friday nights off entirely last year, and it really helped with my stress levels. I refused to grade, plan, call parents, do anything school related (other than parent stuff for my kids) on Friday nights. Even Twitter got neglected most Friday nights, and with me, that's saying something. That night off was my extended summer, and it helped me get through rough weeks knowing I was going to get Friday night off. It became like a mini summer break for me every week.
3. Crafts. For me, it's usually knitting, but I have found over the years that, if I don't spend some time knitting every week (or spinning yarn or gardening), I go a little weird. It is worth setting the grading down to knit, even for just half an hour. Spending time creating something not school-related helps us find our center again. With more Maker Spaces around the world opening up for reasonable fees and so many craft guilds and meetup groups, anyone can find a craft that gets us off the computer screens and using our hands to make something neat. It is that act of creating something, what many of us leave until summer to do, that can help keep us sane during the school year.
4. Mini-Vacations. I know, most of us don't have the money, but even just a weekend camping trip or a day trip to the beach can make a huge difference in our stress levels. Short vacations, especially if we leave the grading bag at school, can really rejuvenate any teacher. This is an important way to take summer with us into the new school year.
5. More sleep. Teachers are notorious for not getting enough sleep, which is part of why we are notorious for being massive coffee consumers as well. Some teachers I know set an alarm to go to bed every night and stick to that bedtime, and they always seem calmer and more with-it than many of the rest of us. This is something I am planning to take into the new school year this year to see how it helps. Summer is the time so many of us get caught up on our sleep, but in reality, we cannot possibly make up that many lost hours. A great way to take summer into the new year is to make sure we actually get enough sleep.
I am sure I have left some great ideas out. What do you do to help with your stress levels and bring a little bit of summer into your school year? Please post in the comments!