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Reflect & Renew: Preventing the Teacher Summer Slide

Each year as the calendar turns to May, my mind starts to turn to summer and September. What will I be doing this summer? What am I planning for the next school year? I begin to map out my summer schedule with teaching and tutoring, hobbies and holidays. But not this year.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like for the past two months COVID-19 and lesson planning for online learning has consumed my life 24/7. Neither of which I was prepared for physically or mentally. This pandemic has taken its toll on so many people in so many ways, and it is causing me to rethink everything I thought I knew about ending a school year, planning for summer, and looking forward to a new group of students. My summer work is now non-existent, and I am not sure if I will have any virtual tutoring students, but I do know that I am not going to let the pandemic rob me of my summer even if it will look very different.

Reflection: As teachers we are always reflecting on our work. What lessons went well? What lessons should be scrapped. Which ones need revision? With the uncertainty of how school will look in Septemeber, this summer will give me time to reflect on my distance learning strategies and assignments. Here is my “plan.”

  • Explore new online platforms and applications to help me grow as facilitator of learning.
  • Reflect on my daily routine (or lack of one since working from home) and tweak it to achieve better results.
  • Attend virtual professional development webinars

Renewal: Teachers are givers by nature; we give to our students and their families, colleagues, and our own families and friends, but when do we give to ourselves? This summer especially should be a time for us to renew – mind, body, and soul. What is on your renewal list? Here is mine.

  • Read – professional books, middle school books, fun fiction.
  • Create a writing ritual
  • Explore a new hobby – painting with water colors

In the past I have set summer goals only to feel like a failure by August when I realize that many of them remain unreachable. This year I am trying something new. Right now I am reading Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear describes how “tiny changes” can yield “remarkable results.” His advice to focus on the system – the process rather than the product struck a chord with me. Afterall, as a teacher of writing I am always trying to get my students to focus on the writing process not just on the finished product. Who knew I should have been applying that system to the rest of my life?!?

What are you planning for this summer? How will you reflect and renew? Whatever goals you set for yourself, I hope you take time to enjoy the process. Please feel free to leave me reading suggestions (professional, middle school, or fun reads) in the comments below. I will add them to my list!

Rita DiCarne is a 2000 Writing Fellow and is a member of the advisory board of the PA Writing and Literature Project at West Chester University. Rita teachest 7th grade ELA at Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Maple Glen (Montgomery County). You can read more of Rita’s work on her personal blog – ritadicarne.com as well as on Twitter – @RitaDiCarne.