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37. How Much of Your Summer is Yours?
18th June 2024 • The Teaching Toolbox - A Podcast for Middle School Teachers • Brittany Naujok & Ellie Nixon, Podcast for Middle School Teachers
00:00:00 00:22:27

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Summer is coming - do you have big plans to take a break from your teaching-related activities? Or are you planning all the teaching things you’ll get done in the summer so you don’t have to worry about them in the fall? Or do you have plans for both? Whatever your plans, we’ve got some tips for how to make sure that at least SOME of your summer is yours so you can get some rejuvenation time!

Topics Discussed

  • All of the personal to-dos to consider
  • Professional development
  • How to set up a win-win schedule


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Brittany 0:00

Summer is coming. Do you have big plans to take a break from your teaching related activities? Or are you planning all the teaching things you'll get done in the summer, so you don't have to worry about them in the fall. Or you have plans for both. Whatever your plans, we've got some tips for how to make sure that at least some of your summer is yours, so you can get some rejuvenation time. Hey there, I'm Brittany, and I'm here with Ellie.

Ellie 0:30


Brittany 0:32

Before we jump in, if you've been listening and enjoying the podcast, please share it with a friend, or consider leaving us a rating or review. So other teachers can find this more easily, we would really appreciate it. Okay, let's jump in

Ellie 0:50

An 8 to 10 week summer is pretty common for most teachers in America. But if you teach in a year round school, you might just have 4 to 6 weeks. And when your school year is so busy, you often have to cram so much into the summer that it can feel like there really wasn't a break at all. During the summer, teachers do many of the things that most other people can take an hour off here or there during their work day or their work week to do like getting an oil change, going to those doctor appointments. I don't know about you. But all of my kids doctor's appointments were always in the summer as well as mine, because it was the best time to schedule.

Brittany 1:33

Yes, yeah

Ellie 1:34

We deal with home maintenance issues and that kind of thing. When you're in the classroom, you might get a half an hour for lunch. And there's typically no time to do those things. during the school day. If teachers have big issues like remodeling or water damage, maybe an IRS issue, things like that, those often have to be pushed to the summer because they just can't take time during the school year to address it.

Brittany 2:00

Most importantly, teachers work on preparing for the next school year. They're reading books, preparing materials, building new models, writing new lessons, making new projects, testing new experiments and games. You know it, you're doing it. Another thing that might be happening for teachers during the summer is working other jobs for extra income. You all know we don't get paid very much as teachers. And while some schools pay on a 12 month schedule, others pay on only a 10 month schedule, giving some teachers no income over the summer. And unless they've been very careful with their budgeting during the year, they have no income coming in. So because of this and the low pay giving the teachers in many states, many, many teachers must take on a secondary job over the summer.

Ellie 2:57

These jobs could be children related, like tutoring, babysitting, helping with preparation for national exams, or filling the summer gap with educational knowledge. They could be working independently, like bartending or serving in a restaurant or landscaping. And some teachers might even have a side hustle business like making T shirts or soap or motivational stickers.

Brittany 3:21

I knew a teacher who received pretty good money each summer to be secluded at a ski resort during their offseason, she'd be given students standardized tests and what helped grade them and determine their scores. She was in a team of three, and they would look at and score each test. And two of them would have to agree on the score for it to be final. So she was still doing teaching related things. But she didn't know any of the students involved.

Ellie 3:52

I think my son in law did that one summer.

Brittany 3:57

One tip for working summer jobs. If you're working another job, whether it's a remote job, or you have to go somewhere else, try to schedule your work time. So you get your favorite time off. Whether that's working days, so you can go see your friends at night, or working nights to be with your kids during the day.

Ellie 4:18

Yeah, it's important so that you at least feel like you're getting some free time that you didn't have during the school year.

Brittany 4:25


Ellie 4:26

And try to find a job that you love. If you're kind of sick of working with kids after the whole school year. Don't work in summer school or summer camp or tutoring or coaching. Try to find something with adults or with animals or with whatever your favorite hobby happens to be, you know, try to expand that summer job into some of your other interests.

Brittany 4:48

Another thing that happens a lot over summer is that teachers must complete professional development. They have to keep their teaching license up to date and so professional development is done. A lot of times over the summer in order to do that, in Colorado, we only had to complete at least when I was in the classroom, they might have changed it by now. But we only had to complete six credits every two years to maintain good standing.

Ellie 5:18

Pennsylvania teachers have to complete 180 hours every five years. So that could be college courses. It could be other programs or activities that are just from an approved provider, which could be your own school district or other things in the community. Or it could be a combination of those. For our personal School District, for my district professional development, we usually had between 24 and 36 hours that we had to do, and that would differ it different over the years, you know, and I think in the early years, it was more in later years, it was a little bit less. So we had to do all of those hours during the school year. But a lot of the time, many of those hours were only available during the summertime, or at very, very close to the beginning of the school year, because some of them were new curriculum related or other new programs. And so you kind of wanted to, or had to get some of that out of the way before the school year started. And so that took some chunks of the summertime. The one good thing about that was our district requirements did end up helping us fulfill our state requirements. And so if we did all of our district requirements, our state ones were taken care of. So there was a little bit of a of a plus there.

Brittany 6:34

Many summer courses are offered to take care of PD. But in some cases, you can actually write your own professional development. If you're a teacher who teaches American exploration, for example, if you want to go on a road trip to the USA that summer, you can often write your own professional development that says I'm going to stop at these places and learn this kind of information. And many schools or districts will take that,

Ellie 7:02

I'd like to do that.

Brittany 7:03

Yeah, check with local colleges, community colleges and universities for credits, explore National Park websites, they will often have credits. Reach out to organizations to see if they'll add professional development credits on for a small fee, or complete an internship with a business or a trade organization to earn credits that way,

Ellie 7:27

Great ideas, just make sure to keep all of your records and make copies of everything that you have. So you have everything to submit to your district and track it all yourself as well. Because we all know sometimes discrepancies happen. And it's great to have your proof your support of what you've done.

Brittany 7:44

Yes, I, I left a job under not great circumstances. I did not get along with the three women principals that were in charge. And come to find out I went back like two years later to the district office to get all my PD credits that I had taken so that I could get a bump in pay at my new school.

Ellie 8:13


Brittany 8:14

And somehow, the central office was absolutely bewildered at how this happened. But somehow, they had completely erased me from the computer system. Oh, my gosh, I had not taught for 11 years and that district. I had not taught for 11 years at that school. I had not done around almost 200 hours of professional development.

Ellie 8:45

All that was gone.

Brittany 8:47

All gone.

Ellie 8:48

Oh my gosh.

Brittany 8:49

And somebody had to go into the archives and find the paper records. Okay, for them to actually prove that I existed.

Ellie 8:59

Wow. That's crazy.

Brittany 9:03

And because I didn't keep good records at that point. I didn't have any way to prove it.

Ellie 9:09

Right. But had you had everything it would have made the process much, much easier. So that's a new file that everybody needs to add to their filing cabinet or their digital filing cabinet. If they don't already have that?

Brittany 9:22

Yes, yes, very much so. Don't trust the people you work with necessarily.

Ellie 9:27


Brittany 9:28

Cover your own butt.

Ellie 9:29

Absolutely. If you do have to take courses or spend time on new curriculum or new resources during the summer, how can you make sure it doesn't take over your summer and leave you feeling more stressed as you head back to school?

Brittany 9:44

Well, if you're going to take courses they're likely already scheduled for you don't have much control about that. But if you do have work to do related to the course maybe you've got homework you have to do or something. Try to fit it in do some of the work on the same day like right after class, so you don't have to take up other days with that work. And then maybe try to complete it on a beach chair next to a pool or in the sun out on your deck or in a park, anything to kind of mix summer vacation with the work, get some sun, get some vitamin D, and get your homework completed at the same time.


That sounds like the perfect setting for me to do work. That's my favorite. If you do have to take PD for your district, see if you can schedule some of those things for the same day. Again, not taking as many different days out of your summer, if possible, especially for childcare reasons, I would schedule two or three classes or meetings on the same days. So I wouldn't need to find childcare for as many different days.


Yeah, I do the same thing with like doctor's appointments and stuff. I try to stack two or three in a day. Yeah, but that's about my limit is two or three a day. And then, and that way, I get more days off, or more days to work or whatever.


So it makes that day busier. But since that day is going to be taken partly anyway, you might as well use it all for some of those things


Exactly. Even though there are so many things we need to or want to do during the summer break, it's important to take time away from schoolwork, it's easy to become almost workaholic, like during the school year, with all the grading, planning creating day in and day out. And for some of us, it's hard to break from that when school is out.


For me, I'd often keep that momentum of constant work either prepping for the next year, so there wouldn't be as much to do during the year. Yeah, right. Or trying to squeeze in house projects that I didn't have time for during the year, or reading the school related books, making new things and so on. And so I'd often head back to school feeling like I never really had a break. And that's not a good way to start the year you need some type of mental and emotional rejuvenation, and some personal growth. So you can head back to school feeling your best.




Taking a break from teaching related ideas can also give your mind some space to be more creative. And that's when some of your greatest ideas for lessons or new teaching materials will just pop into your head, because your brains kind of working on it in the background. But you're giving it some time to be able to do that.


Yeah, I've started driving in silence, to try to give my brain time to just think


that's a great idea.


So here are a few tips for giving yourself a break and making sure some of your summer is yours. Take some time to recover, relax and build relationship. Summer is when you have a little more time for those coffee dates or can go out to lunch with friends. This is also when you have more time for book clubs or can go on hikes. So go!


If you're reading books, read books that interest you. As I said often my summer reading was novels that I might use in the classroom, or books about teaching strategies. If you are a reader, and you don't get much reading time, use the summer to read for pleasure. Take some time for traveling or exploring. If you're able to travel go for it. Our family never traveled that much during the summer, we had sports with my kids, their schedules were always different. So we had the sports and it was hard for my husband to get off of work. But looking back, I wish we'd made it more of a point to get away and see new places. Now if your circumstances don't allow for travel like ours, take some time to explore your own hometown and the surrounding areas. Sometimes the most interesting things are in our own backyards, but we never tend to check them out. Our friend Leah, who was on the podcast, in one of our earliest episodes, wrote a blog series A few years back about being a hometown tourist. So shout out to Leah will link her blog in the show notes so you can check out her ideas and experiences with this hometown tourist idea. Any of the travel or exploration experiences you have give you more to share with your students.


So Ellie, what did you do? Did you get out in May or June?


We got out in the middle of June.


Okay. So what did you do for the rest of June? Recover?


Yes. Kind of like I think that was yeah, it was kind of recovering getting stuff around the house a little bit more straight, starting some some some house projects, that kind of thing.


Yeah, we usually got out right around Memorial Day weekend. And so I would sleep. My first year that I taught I got out of school, fell into bed like literally fell into bed with my clothes still on and slept 42 hours that first year.


oh my god,


I was so tired.




So yeah, I think the first couple of weeks is recovery. What did you do in July?


July was often times when I would start like the PD stuff, because, you know, you have this couple weeks in June, and then all of a sudden, it's the fourth of July, and you're like, wait a minute, it's the fourth of July already. That kind of signals a halfway point in summer with summer, and we have only just begun. So I think sports were typically over by then. And so then we would try to do some day trips, and you know, try to hit the shore if we could go to the beach. And then that was I'd say mid July is when stuff started getting scheduled for PD stuff. So I'd have some days in July, and then some days in August.


That's pretty much the same for me July would usually July 4 would typically signaled to me that it's time to start getting back into school mode. And so I would start thinking about like, how I was going to set up my room was the new curriculum coming on board that I needed to start looking over and getting ready for,


right. And we couldn't get into our rooms until August. So August, we had a full week of PD and service stuff before students came back. Now they, in my last years, they were coming back at the end of August. So our in service would be the week before so then the week or two before that was trying to get into the to the room and get copies made if new things had to be made that I couldn't do in the spring. And then all the classroom decorations and things like that getting everything set up.


My wedding anniversary is July 25. And so that was usually my signal to go back into the classroom. I would wait till after my anniversary was over. And then I would jump back into the classroom and get things set up and copies made and all the decor items back on the wall and stuff, right. And then our kids usually started around August 14 or 15.


And I was just thinking when my kids were in high school, they would have band camp at the beginning of August. They also had like mini band camps throughout the summer, and they'd have summer rehearsals, or if they were doing a fall sport that started I believe at the beginning of August.


Yeah, the kids were going back at high school level. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. My daughter often had drama or my son had soccer. Yeah. 2 a day soccer practices. Yeah.




So again, schedule, the time for the things that we've talked about, not just the big events, but even the daily things, schedule those things in so that they don't get skipped. It might seem silly to say okay, at 330 on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I'm going to work on my garden, or I'm going to practice the piano, or I'm going to work on writing my own novel. But if you don't schedule it, you'll just tend to skip it.


Time just slips away.


Time just skips away time slips pass and something else will take over. If you're an early morning person and your hobby isn't playing the piano or playing the trumpet. It's not going to wake people up, try scheduling it early. I often wake up at four 430 Just because the cat tends to bite me. And so I'll often start my day, early in the morning and, and do my hobbies then or, or work then depending on what I feel like. So don't push things off the schedule. Schedule them.


Yeah, grab that time for yourself so that you make sure you get it. Yes. So we know the teaching profession is inherently demanding. And teachers are constantly pouring their energy into lesson planning, grading, managing classroom dynamics and offering emotional support to their students. And this constant output of energy can lead to burnout. So your summer break offers you the chance to step back, recharge your battery. And so we want you to take the most of that opportunity to try to get yourself recharged no matter what your summer brings you.


And we hope your summer brings you a lot of recharge a lot of rejuvenation. Absolutely. After you've placed today's tools in your teaching toolbox. Please head back and write us a review. Snap a screenshot and post it. Don't forget to tag us or just radar podcasts. We'd love to hear from you. We'll talk to you again.






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