5 Ways Teachers Can Stay Creative and Fresh over Summer

It’s summer! I was hesitant to admit this to fellow teachers, students, family, and friends just three short weeks ago… but I think I was more excited to hit summer vacation than my students! But now that I’m a couple weeks into “vacation” I hang my head in shame no longer and simply smile at the truth. πŸ™‚ And I bet I am not alone.

The Oregon coast with my husband, Jon 2017. Headed back with kiddos this summer!

Truth is, you can take a teacher out of a classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. I find this every summer. As excited as I get about enjoying the sunshine, working in my yard, getting out onto open water, and reading something “non academic” (I’m thinking of picking up an Agatha Christie ), I invariably end up daydreaming and planning much sooner than I anticipate at the close of the year. When those last few weeks are filled with awards ceremonies, graduations, grading, report cards, closing meetings, and … did I mention grading? … the last thing every teacher thinks is, “I’m getting on that planning RIGHT AWAY!”

The funny thing is that immediately after I “sent report cards” I sat in my chair for probably all of a good two minutes just soaking in what that means to me, and then where did I scroll over to? “Art Class Curator” (who I love). Why? Because I am having my second go round teaching Art History next school year, albeit 2nd semester. haha You can check her work out here. (Not being paid here/ just a fan). https://artclasscurator.com/

  1. Take time to invest in and value your own passions and hobbies.

Anyway, summer for me is also my creative time. After I’ve soaked up the sun a little, I really do enjoy having the time to be creative without the pressure. Let’s face it, once you hit class in the fall, no matter how organized you’ve been, you’re often operating in crisis mode. I’d like to share 5 things I’ve done consistently over the summer months that fuel my creative juice before “full on” planning comes later in the summer (and in a later post).

I teach writing. I edit. I encourage. I hang papers proudly in the classroom and I swoon over students’ poetry. I really am not exaggerating by the word “swoon.” I AM SO PROUD. But I don’t give myself the permission to write what I want to as often because there is so much writing that MUST be done. I’m hoping to really change that as a general habit (here I am now, blogging away, for example), but summer comes with an exhilarating “high” of feeling less pressed and more present.

I dabble in watercolor. Okay, so maybe my simple flowers won’t end up in a local coffee shop or at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, but they bring me joy. And they fill a little space in my kitchen.

I love to work in my yard. I LOVE to mow. Mowing is the place where I can think, and pray, and feel like I’m accomplishing something great while SITTING. It’s amazing. Almost a sport. I’m pushing to see this in the next summer Olympics.

I mow. It’s what I do. But the purple wild flowers must stay.

My point is that whatever fuels you, relaxes you, or causes you to be the MOST YOU, you should do. It’s a good reminder to myself too. And by doing this, believe it or not you are benefitting your students and classroom too. Kids love when you care about what makes them who they are. And there are many who in response genuinely want to know WHO YOU are. So DO THINGS, MAKE THINGS, CREATE SOMETHING, LEARN SOMETHING. You have that much more to relate to them with. Playing can be learning too.

2. Read something not strictly academic.

Of course we might want to read a great book on our favorite area of study, but it’s also okay to read something just for fun. One of my students loaned me a fiction book she thought I’d like at Thanksgiving. Bless her heart, she thought I might like to read it over the break! And I would have! Sadly, a three day weekend just doesn’t allow for it. BUT it’s on my list for summer reads 2019. And I can’t wait to tell her “thank you” in the fall. What a little honey.

Whether poetry, or short story, or a book that’s been sitting on your coffee table for a VERY LONG TIME, pick it up. Learn something, enjoy, and stop feeling guilty, even if the laundry has to pile up a little or the grass grows a bit. No, on second thought, do mow the grass. πŸ˜‰

3. Travel, take notes, and take pictures.

I know, travel. You probably aren’t making six digits, right? But traveling doesn’t have to be another country, it doesn’t even have to be by plane. But take time to GO SOMEWHERE. We can probably all think of places within a two hour radius that we’d love to see for the first time or even see again. And there is beauty in tradition or taking your kids, your spouse, or yourself somewhere you have been a million times. You’re making memories. For us, Duluth and Lake Superior, where my husband and I grew up, are only a couple hours away, so that’s an easy one if we can’t go far. And the sight of this “lake of shining waters” brings me joy every time I see it.

Although, if you can go out of the country, I wouldn’t discourage you! I have been blessed more than I deserve and have been able to visit London, Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, and Stockholm. One thing I have loved being able to do is tell kids stories; show them pictures, post cards, and books; and be able to reference these things as they come up naturally in our text books and literature. This January after we returned from Sweden, my 6th-7th grade especially loved the story of the VASA SHIP. Read about it. How long was this ship, on its maiden voyage, on the water before it SUNK? And how long did it take to sink?! I know you want to know. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasa_(ship) Anyway, you learn when you travel! You have more to share and create more content connection.

The Vasa Ship. Look at the intricate handiwork!

4. Enjoy nature and get active.

The warmth and green of summer is not lost on me. I live in the Midwest where we are privileged to enjoy four distinct seasons. Yay! Spring is hopeful. The fall is gorgeous with the changing leaves, the smell of bonfire, and the sense that God is putting the trees to sleep for a long winter’s nap. And winter is lovely too. Snow is clean and fresh, and quite a novelty to me right until… Christmas is done. And then I am too. Our winter’s are long. Months pass by before the ground is thawed enough to dig into and allow me to get my hands dirty. So, needless to say, summer is my favorite season. I am out of the house probably six hours a day. Sometimes ALL DAY, with sunscreen…. But wherever you live, whatever the climate, take this time to enjoy God’s creation. There is value and meaning and purpose in beauty. Let’s not forget that.

And, I am not an athlete. Maybe you are! But I love to take walks. We have really great trails where I live. Blessed again! But whatever you choose to do to move your body, move it! Canoe, swim, do something you used to love, or try something new. “It does your body good,” possibly even more so than milk. πŸ˜‰

5. Do your creative prep and create a “stockpile” of great resources.

“She lured us in with reading, taking walks, and water colors. Now she wants us to prep??” Well, you had to have seen this coming, right? Summer is a great time to get a leg up on your creative ideas and resources. Once again, no matter how organized we are, we hit fall head on and at full speed. And as much as we love to follow the creative bunny trails that hop and skip through our minds in those nine months of “crazy” there’s little time then. Here’s just a few ideas to get that ball rolling.

  • Look for illustrations, comics, resources. Teachers Paying Teachers is a great source. I’ve found some gems. Or create your own! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com
  • Check out documentaries! Stockpile your “go to” list of favorites for class content or those “off days” when you are missing half the class due to flu season.
  • Brain storm your field trip ideas. If possible even preview. My husband graciously took me to MIA before I took my students so I could map out where I wanted them to go first and highlight what I thought was most interesting and important.
  • Dream about your ideal classroom!! I do mean DREAM. It may never be perfect. And there is only so much money and time. But now is the time to think “possibilities” not “probabilities.” I’m thinking of a “coffee shop” feel this year. We shall see…
  • Collect your favorite quotes, poems, bell ringers, etc. Type, print, binder them up and have them ready to go! You’ll be glad you did.

I truly hope that some of these ideas were new or at least good reminders for you. I bet you have your own traditions that keep you creative and motivated over summer too! If you don’t mind, please share with me! Or if there is something that you are going to “have a go at” in response to this post, let me know that too! It would brighten my day. Happy summer!

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