Are you one of those teachers who turns off your teacher-brain once summer hits? If so, I am envious of you. Every year I give myself a month to decompress and not think about teaching, but after a week my teacher brain goes in overdrive. It’s become a delicate balance spending time reflecting about the previous year and changing/adjusting for the upcoming year (which I really love to do) without stressing myself out and spending my summer not present with my family and friends.
But if I really think about the numerous summers I have spent as a teacher, not every one was this happy-go-lucky-I-love-teaching mentality. I have had some rough years where it was anything to want to go back to the classroom in September. And I know I’m not alone. Sometimes years are tough and taking a break is the best thing to do. Sometimes as teachers we fall in a rut or a routine that is comfortable, and wanting to change or grow is not on the to-do list.
However, five years ago I came to a crossroad and realized that if I was going to continue to enjoy what I did, I had to rethink my job. I needed to infuse new energy and give myself a fresh start. Permission to understand a teacher’s job is never done, that one will always continue to grow–and be okay with that. (Something I still struggle with.)
If you’re looking to energize, or re-energize your teaching, try one of these!
My professional library is chalk-full of books. I typically buy about 3-4 teaching books a year and implement these ideas into my teaching and curriculum. This summer I purchased Writing Workshop in Middle School and 100 Quickwrites. I am excited to try some of these new strategies.
The trick with reading professional books is to choose 1-2 things that you would like to try in your classroom. You can overwhelm yourself quickly if you want to try everything! Believe me.
Here’s my top 5 teaching books, ones that have challenged my thinking and are a reference I return to again and again.
- The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke
- Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher
- The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell
- Book Love by Penny Kittle
- I Read it But I Don’t Get it by Cris Tovani
While exercising isn’t my favorite thing to do, I find that once I get going, I am the better for it. I have found enjoyment in walking and while my body is exercising, my mind tends to as well. It’s in these moments that I come up new ideas for teaching, reflect on the day–what did or didn’t work that day–and how I want to adjust, or just be grateful and enjoy nature.
When I exercise by myself, I usually listen to educational podcasts. Talk about inspiring! It’s like having an expert right there next to me. After my walk is over, I quickly jot down ideas into a notebook so I don’t forget my thoughts or new insights. And then the next morning I walk over to my teaching partner’s classroom and say, “I was listening to a podcast yesterday…”
My favorite teaching podcasts are:
1. Heinemann Podcast
2. Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers
3. Talks with Teachers
4. Book Love
5. NCTE Voices from the Middle
There’s a phrase from the Bible that states iron sharpens iron. Find coworkers who are like-minded and spend time talking through curriculum, classroom management, new ideas you want to put into practice. Challenge each other (in a good way!) and walk through this journey together. If you’ve been in teaching long enough, you know it can be a lonely and isolating job. Don’t let it! When you get together with colleagues, energize each other with new ideas and things that are working in your classroom instead of gripping about anything and everything else.
When you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, these teachers are life-lines. They can also help inspire and invigorate. If you’re new to teaching, find a veteran teacher you admire and ask to be mentored. This job can feel overwhelming at times and someone older and wiser can help ground you. If you’ve been teaching for some time and there’s a new teacher in your building, take him or her under your wing. There’s lots to learn from teachers fresh out of college!
I hope these tips help if you’re feeling in a rut or not excited about going back to work in the fall. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you. We’re all in this together!