Monday, May 6, 2013

10 Things Teachers Can Do to Transform Their Summers

English: Jewish Children with their Teacher in...
Children with Teacher in Samarkand (Wikipedia)
by Lee W Reed

There is an old saying in the teaching profession that says, "My favorite parts of teaching are June, July and August."

Like most humorous sayings there is some truth behind this. Teaching is very hard work and most of us invest far more of ourselves than our paychecks might suggest.

If for no other reason than the sake of our sanity, we all need a break from the grind, to expand our horizons, improve our skills and grow as human beings.

Contrary to what some may say, this is not a selfish act. This is a matter of survival and a hedge against burnout. Besides, what will you have to give to your students in the fall that is fresh and new if you aren't growing as an individual?

Think of the people you know that you consider fascinating; are they not the people that are continuously trying and learning new things?

And if that is true of them, will it not also be true of your students when they learn during the course of the year that you have done something amazing with your time?

Of course, on a teacher's salary the options may be somewhat limited, but here are ten options with the potential to help you grow and help you return in the fall with excitement in your voice and a quickness to your step:

  • Educate Yourself: I love the line from Good Will Hunting: "You dropped 150 grand on an education you could have got with a dollar fifty in late fees at the public library. Building on this idea, Josh Kaufman developed what he calls the "Personal MBA." He decided he could have got the same education he got at MBA school if he had just read the right books. With that in mind, he has created a list of 99 books that will get the job done. Don't want an MBA? Make up your own list and educate yourself on something new; preferably NOT in the subject you currently teach.

  • Archaeological Dig: Contact your local university to see if there are any opportunities to join an archaeological digs. You may not be able to bring home anything you find, but the memories you keep will likely be far more valuable and you will be making a contribution to our knowledge of history.

  • Learn a new skill: Doesn't have to be a big deal, learn to play a musical instrument, scuba dive, dance the East Coast Swing, fly a plane, something new and challenging. Plus, you are likely to meet some very interesting people.

  • Get involved in a new sport: My wife and I were surprised a few years ago at how much fun kayaking was. It was relatively inexpensive, good exercise and in matter of minutes we could be in some very beautiful scenery. However, the same could be said of mountain biking, backpacking, kite surfing, hang gliding and a number of other great sports.

  • Become a baseball fan: Lots of big cities have a professional baseball team but pro ball can be expensive. Even more cities have farm teams that you can see for a fraction of the price to watch the same game. What's more, farm team owners work very hard to make their games family friendly and exciting, with special entertainment during the game and fireworks after.

  • Master a new trade: Let's face it, a lot of teachers are looking for ways to earn a few bucks over the summer months and rather than spend the time doing the usual like tutoring and grading standardized tests, why not learn a new trade. Printing, welding, woodworking, painting and more offer the opportunity to learn new skills and earn a few bucks as well.

  • Go pro with your craft: A friend of mine who was interested in photography took the plunge, got some of his best work framed and entered some art fairs. His work sold well enough that he was able to build a much nicer booth, go to more shows and eventually quite his regular job to devote himself to his craft full time. You'll never know what you can do if you don't try.

  • Get involved politically: By this I am not suggesting you join the teachers union to protest the latest issue, not that that isn't worthwhile, but something outside your profession that you feel passionately about. While many in the world make light of teachers, most know they hold our suture in their hands and want to hear what they have to say. Make a choice to speak out for something you care about.

  • Travel, preferably out of the country: Nothing will expand your horizons quite like getting out of the country. Experiencing new people, places, languages, foods and sights is a guaranteed way learn new things and see the world with a new set of eyes. It's not always cheap, but it is oh, so worth it. (My wife, a university professor, has become very creative at finding grants and other sources of funding to finance our travel plans.)

  • Last, but certainly not least, volunteer: You are a teacher so we already know you aren't in it for the money and you may have a profound sense that you "gave at the office." Nevertheless, the needs are great out there and volunteering is a way to get beyond yourself and make a difference in a whole new field. Plus, your skills as a teacher will make you invaluable to any group you help. Forget Shaw, those who can teach because real teachers are a rare gift to be treasured in any endeavor.

Emerson said, "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." You have a whole summer ahead of you to create your own experiments, learn new things, and return in the fall with a renewed commitment to your craft as a teacher.

As a grandfather, teacher and world traveler, Lee Reed loves to experiment, learn, experience and share new things. You can find many of his thoughts and ideas on his blog:

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