Relax Now and Plan for a Less Stressful Fall!

A MiddleWeb Blog

At this point those of us in the northeast region have just finished winding down this school year, and we’re catching up with the folks across the nation who have already begun summer break. Ah, that’s worth repeating… summer break.

Yet, we know that summer break for teachers means continued learning and preparing for the upcoming school year. Of course, we know to include a healthy balance of some well-needed rejuvenating summer sun and fun. After all, fall will be here before we know it.

As usual, for the final post for another school year, I like to create a space that will keep us learning together throughout the summer, whether you’ve just begun your break or you’re already feeling perfectly relaxed!

This summer’s focus is guided by one of my favorite questions to ask myself at the conclusion of another exciting if sometimes challenging school year: What can I do this summer to continue improving and learning in preparation for the fall?

This Education Week Teacher article I wrote in 2015 may be just the thing you need to stay summer rested and fall fresh. Yet, let’s keep that conversation going. Although that article from 2015 has timeless advice, I thought why not expand on the idea in this post.

So, let’s do it! How would you answer this question: What is one thing you can do to be a better co-teacher this fall?

I asked a group of just over thirty colleagues from across the nation this question and here are three of the top themes that emerged from their responses. (Keep in mind that these are things co-teachers might even do together!)

Get organized with the tools at your fingertips!

Finding new ways to organize my many tasks is always an ongoing goal for me each year. And it’s a great feeling to know I am not alone! Summer is a perfect time to explore new tools (or new ways to use them), finding fresh ways to help make our teaching lives run much more smoothly when school begins to accelerate again!

Currently, I use Dropbox and Google Drive as my go-to digital modes of organizing student work samples, teaching reports, and all things teaching and learning. I also utilize the Reminder app on my iPhone. I just love creating the many lists to indicate upcoming meetings and tasks to complete. It also has a great color-coding feature to distinguish the various lists for upcoming tasks.

And I can’t forget about Google Calendar—it saves me every time! I spoke with a few teachers who even use Google Calendar to upload and document their lesson plans, IEP goals, and student work samples—ingenious! (Try searching in Google Images for “google calendar, teacher planning.” Then explore!)

Yet I must admit, I am also a hard-copy notebook kind of person. Although I depend on digital methods (much less clutter and easy access anywhere!), I continue to write my lists as well as maintain folders of selected documents for safe keeping and access to tangible sources.

In terms of organizing, my goal for this summer is to become more savvy with Nearpod and OneNote to expand my digital know-how for applications beginning this fall.

If organization is one of your goals—or you have some great tips to guide ways to organize the work that we do—please share in the comments section below.

Carve out some “Me” time

I just love this one. I find it interesting how many teachers say that summer time is the only time they have to “find themselves again.” Although I am happy to hear that this necessary aspect of being human happens for many teachers over the summer, I would like to suggest that teachers think about how they may balance finding themselves throughout the school year.

It’s so important to take care of ourselves—it just makes us better teachers. We know this…and so let’s do this! So, your task this summer is to think about the ways you nurture yourself this summer, and then consider how that may translate into things you do during the school year.

For example, consider how you may expand habits regarding nutrition, exercise, and enjoying the profound benefit and simple pleasure of being present in any moment! Taking some time this summer to strengthen your ability to be present in any moment can have extreme benefits in the fall as you transfer this skill into new and amazing teaching and learning moments with colleagues, parents, and our students. It will just make you think and act with stronger clarity and intention in every situation.

Before I move on from this section, I must return to the value of nutrition. We all could use increased awareness for the fact that what we eat translates into the energy we will feel throughout the day. Many teachers shared with me that they feel that “slump” in energy between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. during the school year.

Well, check out Jennifer Kelly’s Feeding Your Life website. Jen is one of my favorite nutrition gurus—she will definitely put you on a strong, healthy nutrition path that will lead well into the fall and beyond!

Read and renew

Yes, it’s true…we read, we learn, we apply what we learn into our classrooms throughout the school year. This ongoing cycle, practiced by many teachers, leaves them feeling overwhelmed.

That is certainly understandable. Perhaps this summer’s goal will be to figure out a way to balance the many emotions we experience as we travel our ongoing learning path. For starters, if you tell yourself you are overwhelmed…guess what? Right! You will be overwhelmed!

So try reframing your language a bit. Perhaps something like This is a lot to take in—but I got this! What are the key points I must remember? I have found this key point method to work personally and with colleagues. Consider giving it a try this summer and into the fall. Develop the habit of identifying 3-4 key points as you address a challenging task.

And here’s an additional summer fun and learning tip: consider keeping a journal. Yes! A relaxed jot here…jot there about how you’re feeling (you could even do sketchnotes). This documentation of how you relax and rejuvenate—while thinking about how you may be a better teacher in the fall—will surely guide you to keep improving your co-teaching craft (and teaching in general) well beyond the school year ahead.

For now, enjoy the break, everyone! I look forward to any comments, tips, questions, and ideas you have to share that will keep our learning moving forward throughout the summer. Share in the comments section below, please. Also, are you on Twitter? If not, perhaps this is the summer to consider participating in the amazing 24/7 professional learning tool of a lifetime! Let’s connect there as well! Follow me @ElizabethLStein.

Enjoy the moments!

Do any of these goals resonate with you? How do you connect? What goal(s) would you add to our summer “getting better for fall” list?
Elizabeth Stein’s Two Teachers in the Room provides a wealth of practical strategies and tips to help K–12 educators co-teach more effectively. Stein presents examples of different co-teaching models and shows how to cultivate a dynamic co-teaching relationship to benefit all students. If you’re reading this, you can use the code MWEB1 and receive a 20% discount at the Routledge site.

Elizabeth Stein

Elizabeth Stein has more than 20 years teaching experience spanning grades K-8, specializing in universal design for learning and special education. She’s currently a special education/UDL instructional coach and new-teacher mentor in Long Island NY’s Smithtown Central School District. Elizabeth is National Board Certified in Literacy, and a contributor to Education Week and other publications. Her books include Comprehension Lessons for RTI (Grades 3-5) (Scholastic, 2013), Elevating Co-Teaching Through UDL (CAST, 2016) and Two Teachers in the Room: Strategies for Co-Teaching Success (Routledge, 2017). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethlstein and #coteachat

4 Responses

  1. Emily Willis says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    As an overtired new teacher, I appreciate this post! I identify with the three categories of organization, “me” time, and journaling. Over the course of my first year of teaching, I constantly felt overwhelmed by the number of lists I had made from IEP goals to faculty meetings and grad school assignments.

    The teacher planning on Google calendar is revolutionary and I cannot wait to test it out! In regards to the “me” time section of your post, this is an area that my co-teacher and I decided to implement into our lives together and it transformed our teaching. Once a week, we would set aside time to hike together or cook a nice dinner. This time with each other, outside of school and without any talk of students, allowed our relationship as adults to strengthen and provided us a set time to decompress.

    Finally, I have followed your suggestion to keep a journal by returning to my old poetry journal. In college, I double majored with poetry but often felt too tired and busy to write during the school year. The clarity I felt after writing again was wonderful and helped to establish my new goal of writing at least once a week during the school year.

    Free writing is an activity that I often ask my students to complete, but rarely participate in myself! To make this activity more approachable for my students and to offer a universal approach to journaling, I allow them to hand write, draw, or type on the computer.

    Thank you again for this post! It was the refresher that I needed as I prepare for the next year and I have already emailed it to my co-teacher!


    • Elizabeth says:

      Hi, Emily! Thank your for sharing your connections with this post! I love your ideas for applying new ideas into in preparation for next year–while enjoying some time for yourself, too!. Enjoy journaling…and, yes! so thrilled to hear you extended this dialogue with your co-teacher–invite her to add her voice–let’s keep the conversation going!

  2. Marilyn Cortes says:

    Elizabeth I loved the part about “Carving out some me time.” This is something that I think is so important for our lives but sometimes last on our list. Emily great job recognizing that you need this and making it a part of your week with your co-teacher. Me time is something I definitely need to make more a priority because it always rejuvenates me.

    • Elizabeth Stein says:

      Thanks for your comment, Marilyn. I hope you are finding time and practices that work for you, so you will continue throughout the upcoming school year, too! Check back in here, if you need a boost! :)

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