10 ways I’m putting myself first this summer

When I was a new teacher, summer became a “parking lot” of my ideas. During the school year, whenever I would realize an opportunity for growth in myself, I would think, “That’s what I’ll use my summer for.” Oh, sweet little newbie.

Teacher Summer™ is a time for sleep. For restoring. For relaxing. For travel. Summer is the time we fill up our yearly gas tanks for one of the hardest jobs on Earth. I did not know that at first.

After teaching years one and two, I got the End-of-Summer Scaries™. I would spiral into a guilt-ridden rollercoaster of all the things I didn’t do: I didn’t flip my classroom. I didn’t rewrite my least favorite unit. I didn’t hand-embroider each student’s birth chart.

Now I’m finishing up teacher year nine, and I’ll be honest with you: summer is still my parking lot. I still have lofty, noble plans that may or may not happen in those too-short weeks. I still feel a little guilty for what I don’t do. But time and experience have taught me that the oxygen mask metaphor is correct, and that my summer is for me. To show up in September as my best teacher self, I have to rest first. And if I get a little energy to better myself, maybe those projects can be small and accomplishable.

I have about 10 weeks of summer break, so here are 10 things I might do this summer—some to develop my professional self and some to decidedly abandon any duty-driven ideals whatsoever. And who knows? Maybe I’ll decide my “me time” doesn’t include any of these things. You, teacher friends, can pick and choose too.

1. Read some “beachside books,” whether I’m beachside or not.

No, these aren’t lofty tomes or canonical enrichments; these are what I want to read. Period. A few on my list are:

  • Late Bloomers by Deepa Varadarajan. Tagline: “An Indian American family is turned upside down when the parents divorce thirty-six years into their arranged marriage in this witty, big-hearted debut.” I am not only excited to learn more about a culture apart from my own, but I’m so ready for a love story that isn’t starring twenty-somethings! And lately, whenever I see “debut,” I go for it. An old favorite (The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern) and a new staple (Chemistry Lessons by Bonnie Garmus) are both debuts.
  • Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld. Tagline: “A comedy writer thinks she’s sworn off love, until a dreamy pop star flips the script on all her assumptions.” It’s on Oprah’s and Reese’s booklists, and the book cover looks like vintage candy. Remember when I said I could do whatever I want?
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow. Tagline: “A captivating modern fantasy about Black sirens, friendship, and self-discovery set against the challenges of today’s racism and sexism.” I’ve had my eye on this one for a while, as it’s not only timely and relevant, but it’s YA magical realism set in Portland, Oregon, where I live (hi!).

Got a library card? Download the Libby app to check out eBooks and audiobooks from your local library on your phone, for free!

2. Try out the cold plunge craze.

Orrrrr sit back in a warm blanket with a glass of wine and watch videos of foxes laughing. I haven’t decided.

3. Go to Fusion, NWEA’s summer conference, in Atlanta.

I’m from Atlanta, and I’ve got my eyes on some sessions and some restaurants. From June 27th to 29th, I’ll haunt the Marriott Marquis for terrific sessions by day. By night? I’ll be stuffing myself with the food of my homeland. Here’s my plan:

  • Session: “Eliciting evidence of students’ math understanding,” led by my buddy Nicholas Joe. Nick is approachable and relatable and just wants to make math easier for kids.
  • Restaurant: I like to celebrate my daily learning with perhaps a craft cocktail and a deviled egg, you know? I’ll head to White Oak Kitchen, which my ATL girlfriend Lindley correctly calls “Elevated Southern Food”—with a top hat emoji.
  • Session: “Does four equal five? A review of the evidence on four-day school weeks,” led by smarty-pants researcher Emily Morton. I love that NWEA is at the forefront of relevant research into school improvement, and Emily always distills weighty information into digestible snacks.
  • Restaurant: Speaking of snacks, sometimes I want a bit of everything. At Krog Street food hall, I can bite, shop, and sip my way around the dozens of stores and restaurants, all inside some blessed air conditioning.

4. Investigate a capsule wardrobe to minimize decision-making.

I’m a teacher. I don’t have lots of extra time to kill. Maybe I can make getting dressed in the morning easier by beginning with the 333 challenge. Orrrr maybe I’ll have an entire Miss Frizzle fashion renaissance.

5. Go on a hike (for me) and make an extended class activity on mileage, rates, elevation, and estimation (for my students).

I like this activity from Math Learning Center. Or I may design a class field trip to a local craft store with a budget, ending in a fabulous arts and crafts math project. Hey, it’s better than my idea to take them all to an Orangetheory class. (Do you know how much math is on those treadmill screens?! Rates, minutes, laps, tenths of a mile inching glacially by…)

6. Take a class just for me that I cannot and will not turn into something for my math class.

There are lots of options to choose from. Here are just three:

  • Drawing. My editor, Monica, is taking “Drawing for people who think they can’t draw (but actually can!)” by Sarah Levy, here in Portland, Oregon. Google “drawing class” to get some results near you, even if you, too, think you can’t draw. Monica didn’t exactly invite me…yet.
  • Make-up. Bobbi Brown’s MasterClass on “simple, natural makeup” might finally be the place I can figure out my new, grown-up-who-wants-nice-yet-straightforward makeup routine. And I can mess up in the privacy of my own home. (I know makeup isn’t everyone’s thing, so check out the other offerings from MasterClass. Get this: a family plan is $23 per month, for six devices. Grab friends and family and split the cost!)
  • Pottery. These clay kits from Sculpd, to be done in my own home at my own pace, are always in my cart. I never check out because I have other things to do. Not this summer. It’s pottery time!

7. Film my own TV screen (classy).

I dream of compiling top computational moments from The Great British Baking Show to add some flair to my own fractions baking challenge.

8. Check out some professional learning from my living room.

Two favorites are Global Online Academy’s catalog of courses (for all disciplines) and YouCubed (aka Queen Jo Boaler) for math teachers.

9. Collaborate with an ELA colleague.

I want to pitch reading The Martian and working through the math. Except I know he’d never give up Animal Farm, Macbeth, or Kafka (yes, Kafka).

10. Rewatch Queen Charlotte of the Bridgerton universe

…and pray that season 3 is as good as this prequel.

Teachers, whatever is (or isn’t!) on your list this summer, I wish for you joyous rest and restful joy. We deserve it, y’all!

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