Summer break represents many different things to many different people. Some people use the summer break for vacation, trips and fun. Some use the summer as the season of projects and renovations, while others work right through it without any change.
For special educators the summer represents a little bit of everything, a little bit of a break, a little bit of preparation and a little bit of reorganization.
Here are the seven things I make sure to do on my summer break.
1. Reflect on how your year went
It is crucial to monitor your teaching just as you would monitor your student’s progress. Most teachers create some form of spreadsheet that shows student growth from the beginning of the year up until the end of the year. Ask yourself:
- Did your students make as much growth as expected?
- How did you help facilitate their learning?
- What can you do differently next year to ensure that they reach their goals and expectations?
2. Organize your classroom
I cannot stress the importance of this one enough! If you do not use a few days of your summer to get your classroom organized – you will be starting the year off on the wrong foot. You do not want to go through the first couple weeks of school trying to remember where certain supplies are. There will not be time to organize once your students step foot into your class.
I go through EVERYTHING. If I haven’t used it but I think it is a valuable learning instrument I put it in a place that is more accessible. I also mark it in my lesson plan book that it is something I should work with in the fall. If you don’t plan on using a certain item or supply just get rid of it. Offer it to a teacher who may get good use of it.
3. Prepare materials for next year
As a special education teacher, I have a ton of materials to prepare for the next year. I create PECS books and visual schedules which requires a lot of images to be printed, cut, and laminated. This is a tedious job that is very time-consuming and something I do not want to be doing when school is in session and my time should be focused on students.
I also go through my student’s IEPs and create a list of accommodations for the general education teacher to have as well as some form of checklist or graph that will serve as a data collection tool in regards to goals and objectives. I also have a notebook and folder for each student and create labels for their individual cubbies and book bags.
4. Check-in to what other teacher’s do
During the school year, it is difficult not to get wrapped up in your own classroom and your own professional responsibilities. I appreciate the summer because I get the chance to step away from what I have been doing and check out what other teacher’s are doing in their rooms. I find this useful because I am constantly borrowing ideas and filling my teacher “toolbox” with things other teachers have found successful.
By taking ideas from other teachers I do not always feel like I have to invent or create lessons from scratch. I use what works! In teaching it is so important to be a part of a teaching community and talk with other teachers and summer offers a great time to do so.
- I have lunch dates with colleagues.
- I check in with other teacher friends and exchange lessons.
- I browse the web for some cool classroom websites like this one.
5. Create a repertoire of good websites
This summer I have really enjoyed visiting Pinterest and other websites for some great teaching ideas and tools that will be beneficial for me as a teacher in the fall. Take 15-20 minutes each day to browse through social networks and other websites looking for great teaching ideas and tools. When you find a person, blog or site that has great ideas make sure to bookmark them in your browser so you can come back regularly for fresh ideas.
6. Continue your professional development
I firmly believe that teachers need to continuously strengthen their skills and be active, life-long learners. Furthering your education is important, at any stage in your career in order to refine your teaching techniques and approaches.
Summer is a great time to enroll in a class, attend educational workshops, or participate in a professional development opportunity to further the scope of your teaching capacity. Personally, I want my students to think of me not only as a teacher, but also as a role model who works diligently to provide a successful learning atmosphere.
Do NOT spend all of your summer focused on the fall! Use this time to rejuvenate yourself and regain some energy. Take time for yourself, your family, and your friends, you deserve it! Despite the ignorant belief that teacher’s have the best job because they get paid to have summers off, we in the teaching world know that a teacher’s salary does not equate to being paid in June and July. It is more comparable to unpaid leave. Therefore remember that your work can wait and enjoy the warm weather!