“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two    
                                            most beautiful words in the English language.”    
                                                                                        –Henry James

*curated from a recent series of Tweets

Well, here we are:  Right in the throes of summer.  And if I know you–committed teachers that you are–you are already thinking ahead and preparing for your return to the classroom.

So as you plan for the fall, ask yourself:

What is essential?
  You don’t need to teach everything at every moment.  Emphasize the important. It will be enough. When I was a newbie English teacher and marked up essays, for example, I red-penciled every single comma and apostrophe error like an editor, thinking this would help them.  Nah.  Now I mark only the biggest things that are impairing their writing, as well marking some things that are going well.  I recently heard some good advice, and now it’s one of my teaching mantras:  “Give them one thing to think about.”  

What can you jettison?
  You may love that VHS tape you have on those Shakespearean insults.  But throw that tape (and all the other ones you have in your cupboard) in the trash.  They’re so 1981. That lesson on floppy disks or CD-ROM? Trash it.  That conviction that you’ll never learn spreadsheets?  You know what to do.

Am I leaving time for stillness? Silence?  Reflection? 
Summer is the best time to plan for stillness, silence, and reflection.  If not now, when?  This is your best shot to ensure that you give yourself some thinking time, some peaceful moments, and most importantly, some time to slow down and be still.  Plan for it now before The Machine begins again.

How will I take care of me? 
You know that Tsunami feeling—and I mean, you know, like a good Tsunami—of when the classroom door opens in the fall and it all starts again? Well, before that happens, make sure you have some idea of how you will take care of you.  Put some mini-breaks, staycations, and down time on the calendar.  Schedule your physical and mental health.  And then stick to it.

How can I be mindful of my choices?
  A teacher’s day is comprised of nothing so much as choices.  Be mindful of those choices and ask constantly, “Is this the best use of my time?” “Is this going to move me in the direction I want to go?” “Will attending this meeting and finally snapping land me in prison?” You know, ask the important questions about choice.

How can I access my passion?  We all have passions in our personal lives.  And those teachers who bring those passions into the classroom own their teaching space, teach their students better, and just plain have more fun.  Identify your passions, and then bring them in.

How can I simplify/clear/focus my physical space?  With the space restrictions we face as modern teachers (forty desks in room? Show of hands!), it’s that much more important that we simplify our learning environments right down to their essence.  What surface can you clear? What cupboard can you empty?  How can you declutter, rearrange, and reorganize to maximize your breathing room?  Thinking about it now will save you some time in September.  

Am I being present here? In the summer?  Looking ahead and planning is good; it’s helpful and important.  But you’ve been given a break here in these couple months that not everyone is lucky enough to have.  And we still have some time left.  So before summer wanes and the classroom calls, I want to make sure you remember to be present and use the gift you’ve been given.  Take a break. Bask in the sun (or near sun).  Indulge in a hobby or passion. Get out and go somewhere, even if it’s to the neighborhood park. 

You work hard.

You deserve some time for you.  

And once again–if not now, when? TZT