Summer Escape: A Teacher’s Guide to Using Time off as a Means to Becoming a Better Educator

Summertime… A time for Teachers’ to practice a different set of 3R’s: Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Respond!

Plain and simple, time off and away from anything helps give another perspective, which supports authentic reflection that can help rejuvenate the soul and inspire a better response. Teachers are not exempt from this rule. That said, let’s take a look at how the summer or time off coupled with mindfulness can later impact student engagement, flexibility, and professionalism (wikihow) with regards to general instruction (Domain 3 and 4 of the Danielson Framework), thus reflect, rejuvenate, and best respond to what life brings.

Generally speaking, student engagement is defined as students on task, but more importantly it also includes helping the students be intellectually active while working though challenging content. The easiest way to help students engage is by creating a structure and procedure that includes a beginning, middle, and end with guideposts and activities. For example, most teachers instinctually set up a basic introduction of material maybe with a bell-ringer activity; follow through with a few activities, and end with a personal reflection time. The practice of mindfulness can also enhance the above by adding self-discovery and awareness of others and context to improve flexibility and overall lesson delivery. For instance, a teacher could use the PAUSE technique as a bell-ringer, followed by a classroom discussion activity using awareness and having students actively listen and synthesize information and content, then end with a summative free writing journal entry activity that connects ideas with present moment awareness to their student personal lives. This example allows student thinking through an activity with well-defined structure, thus supporting authentic student engagement. In general, student engagement can be enhanced through approaching the student’s interests and enthusiasm through present moment awareness with proper pacing and activities they can relate to, thus students ultimately taking responsibility for the learning and exchange of ideas.

Another important key to student engagement is teacher flexibility and responsiveness to students. Even the best laid-out plans sometimes need alterations. For example, there are times while in mid-class a teachable moment arises or interests shifts and this is a great opportunity for a teacher to take a moment, respond, and make a lesson more poignant. A mindful teacher will be better equipped to change plans and access their extensive repertoire and knowledge in regards to strategies, approaches, resources, and community, but also persist in learning more themselves if they do not know something. Furthermore, mindful-awareness may also help in picking up on subtle changes in the students and class, so to know when to respond with flexibility sooner. Fine-tuning awareness will also support a more authentic reflection, which can enhance and inspire creativity to move on to whatever may come next.

Teachers can, this summer take a moment, or a few, to relax and rejuvenate by reflecting on the many things that may have went well or needs improvement throughout the year, create, plan, and then take action, so you can better respond the next time. Metacognition, or thinking about your thinking, is basically self-critically analyzing what you did and how your thoughts develop through a task. This type of thinking and reflection then lends itself to focusing on making revisions to improve overall effectiveness, regardless of what the task maybe.

So, after the rest, break, vacation, or get away… Take the next step, which can be done in the form of professional development, including working on course work, taking a new class, take on a new degree, or attend a conference of your choice. A continued growth to remain current and improve skills is critical in reaching others. The most skilled and knowledgeable teacher can use a fresh perspective from networking with other teachers; hear about new content, pedagogy, and technology to increase effectiveness. Most teachers’ instinctually do these activities anyway. Moreover, staying active in professional organizations is a basic must to assist with keeping in focus what is most important, such as overall service to others through integrity and honesty by putting what is best for students first. Regardless, the practice of mindfulness can even help with personal and professional development with keeping you more focused and relaxed, no matter what the context.

While working mindfully and reflecting on things, one might also want to include how important the role of a teacher is within a whole district, school building, and their effect on a community or family. Working with others, collaboration is a huge buzzword in any school, organization, or business. For example, most schools are using the PLC (Professional Learning Community) model, which is data based instruction across grade level and curricular areas. The main idea circles around collaboration with colleagues to share effective teaching strategies from student data. This is a great time to use reflection to remap course sequence and plans, as well as, help share strategies with colleagues, and reflect upon how to extend things out to the community. The use of mindfulness can be used to help overall communication with increasing patience to engage active listening and carefully crafting words to support healthy collaboration, even while working through contrasting points of view. Another suggestion could be to rethink how technology is used to communicate information to families, such as general current announcements, the activities taking place in the classroom, and students’ progress to engage families in the learning process. Being as transparent and open to all those involved takes both great focus and ability to detach emotionally form problems, which are skills mindfulness supports so one can rationally deal with and make the best decision.

Regardless, of what you do this summer… take time, relax, reflect, create, plan, or work on the next step, which should always be better, then the last, whatever that maybe. Take a moment or a few to sit in stillness, breathe, reflect and be more aware of the world around you. Then prepare to respond with equanimity to life in the best way and start to plan the next year’s lessons with a distinguished level of engagement, flexibility, and professionalism. Lastly, remember… “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Be aware and enjoy the ride.

Mindful reminders:

  • Use the PAUSE technique and general outline
  • Take time to breath and notice
  • Make or plan time to relax and enjoy some time off (just as important as work)
  • Practice gratitude (write or say a few thankful things each day)
  • Take the first step to doing something (small steps, the first of millions)
  • Reach out to other colleagues

Summer Questions:

  • What is your favorite way to relax?
  • What is the best way to rejuvenate?
  • How do you, or what type of practice do you use to reflect?
  • Do you respond or re-act to life? Is there a difference?
  • What do you plan to do better next time?
  • How do you reach out and work with the community?

July 4th has passed by… now the work begins on the new school year…

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition. — Jacques Barzun

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About discoverthought

Dr. Jeffrey Glogowski is a middle school music teacher and choral director of 17 years, currently teaching at Herget Middle School in the West Aurora School District. His foundational study about “Vipassana Meditation and Teacher Decision-making” has set the stage for more research that encourages teachers and students to explore life through the use of mindfulness, awareness of thoughts, and self-reflection as a means of nurturing the spirit while learning music. He enjoys using music as a vehicle to help others find their full potential and self worth.
This entry was posted in Awareness, Danielson, Education, Mindfulness, Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Summer Escape: A Teacher’s Guide to Using Time off as a Means to Becoming a Better Educator

  1. Reblogged this on learningessentialsblog and commented:
    nice article.

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