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Design Your Summer [episode 13]


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Morning Message: 

[00:56] Would you rather teach on a traditional or year-round schedule?

Our initial reactions are to say both! But if we had to choose, we’d say traditional because we like the longer break in between the school years. We polled our listeners and 73% said they’d rather teach on a traditional schedule. 

Some responses from our listeners for teaching on a traditional schedule include: I would feel like I would always be prepping for next session during those breaks instead of taking a bigger break to recuperate during summer, having to teach kids procedures each time they come back after a break, and aligning end of units to align with breaks would be difficult.

Some responses from our listeners for teaching on a year-round schedule include:  I could travel to different places in the fall and experience different seasons during those shorter breaks and a big one is getting breaks throughout the year was better for my mental health.

We’d love to hear your responses to this question and future questions, so let us know over on Instagram!

Here's an overview of episode 13:

As teachers, we love nothing more than that summer feeling, but everyone uses their summer break differently. Some forget about school, others use it as uninterrupted plan times, and some are in-between those. Whichever one you are, we just hope you have an intentional plan that will get you ready for next school year. In today’s episode, we have a spontaneous and open conversation about what we want our summer to look like in hopes to show you how to go about designing your own summer. 

If you joined us for last week’s episode, we discussed how you can design your summer with recovery and readiness in mind so that you can start the upcoming school year from a position of strength. In today’s episode, we walk through what this all looks like in action of how to design your summer through recovery and readiness, with goals and boundaries in mind. We hope that hearing us go through this process, it will give you an idea of how to be intentional and effective in the design of your summer. 

Please join us for next week’s episode where we pick up the rest of the conversation and help Emily design her summer! 

We invite you to join us for our FREE Design Your Summer Challenge. This challenge will help you identify what you need for recovery this summer and make a plan for back to school readiness. You can sign up now here. We hope you’ll join us!

In this episode on designing your summer, we discuss:

  • A recap of what we talked about in our previous episode about recovery and readiness for the next school year
  • An outline of how to specifically design your summer with you in mind
  • Why it’s important to be intentional about your summer

This week's teacher approved tip:

[18:54] Have students help with end of the year cleanup

Take advantage of the fact that your students can help you pack up your room! A great way to do this is to make a list of all the things you need to get done, and then have a section that the kids could help with and put that list on the whiteboard for them to see. It’s a great visual for them to see all the tasks they could help with. If you want, you could even assign kids strategically to tasks that would make them successful.

What we're giving extra credit to this week:

[19:57] Heidi is giving extra credit to TMJ jaw exercises

[20:40] Emily is giving extra credit to Storyworth


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Read the transcript for episode 13, Design Your Summer:

Hey, there, thanks for joining us today. In today's episode, we're going to design a summer plan together. And we'll share a teacher approved tip for end of year classroom tidy. We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week's morning message is would you rather teach on a traditional or year round schedule? What about you Heidi?

Can I do both? Where do we sign up for that?

I kind of want my summers and long breaks in the middle of the year. I probably probably traditional I think switching gears that much, especially if you have to switch classrooms. When you're going off track like oh, yeah, that doesn't get get handled at the schools that rotate classrooms. That sounds so overwhelming to me.

How about you, Emily, what would you prefer?

I think I'm a traditional girl too. As much as I would love some breaks throughout the year, there is just something to that long break in the middle that really gives you so much time to just recuperate.

Absolutely, absolutely need that to learn to love teaching again.

And we pulled our audience and 73% of you voted for traditional, but 27 said year round. And so let's share some of the responses. Jennifer said traditional I did year round for two years, and even though there were more breaks, I felt that every break I was getting ready for the next time school was in session. I realized I missed that longer summer break with real downtime.

Oh, that would totally be me. I would just be prepping. Absolutely.

Melissa said I think I'd like year round. In Florida summer is too hot and then rain so much that I don't do much. But if I had fall break, I could take a trip up north and see some fall leaves and cool weather. Fall is better than summer. It is true. And I can see that for sure. If where you live summer is a really oppressive season, then breaks at other times of the year would be a huge relief. Prim said year round. It allows for continuous learning and breaks between but no summer, which that is the trade off there. Adrian said traditional 100% It's fun as a teacher to have breaks throughout the year, but so hard for kids to adjust to leaving and coming back. You have to reteach procedures every time and planning to be done with your units or content. So that aligns with your breaks is tricky. Hadn't even thought about that. Oh, a whole bunch of work right there. She said plus, I need a longer break to get ready for the next year.

I completely get that same same Adrian. But Brooke said urine was better for my kids and my mental health getting breaks every nine weeks. Yeah, we need both. We've come to the conclusion we need both. Where do we sign up?

We first heard the idea to design your summer from our favorite Gretchen Rubin on her Happier Podcast several years ago. Her take on it is that we want summer to have a special feeling to it that's different than our regular lives. So we need to have an intentional plan to do things that will set summer apart from regular life. But as teachers summer already feels like a completely different life than the one you live the rest of the year. We need different things summer summers and someone who works in retail or an office job might eat from their summer. In last week's episode, we discussed how an educator between school years can design your summer with recovery and readiness in mind so that you can start the upcoming school year from a position of strength.

So to recap, we identified four types of recovery you may need after a hard school year. And to be clear, all yours are hard school year. So the first type of recovery is relax, and we think this is probably the most important one you should consider giving your attention to. For this type of recovery. Ask yourself what's fun and freeing? What makes you smile, laugh or feel carefree? Plan things that answer those questions to feel this relaxation. The second type of recovery is refresh. So ask yourself what makes you feel like you? What makes you feel centered? The third type of recovery is refocus. What keeps you fastened to your foundation? Ask yourself that question. With this type of recovery, consider what makes you feel most like yourself as a human being not just as a teacher or a parent or whatever other roles you play. And the last type of recovery is recharge what fills you up. Think about the things you love to do that get you excited and energized and fill up your bucket so to speak. Recovery is incredibly personal. What lights up one person that can be completely draining to another person. So we share these four areas of recovery to help you consider exactly what recovery should look like for you this summer, and what plans you can make to help foster that recovery.

The second area we discussed last week is how to plan school readiness into your summer schedule, so that you're not undoing all of that recovery work. By ending up burned out the second week of school. We identify two keys to help with readiness, goals and boundaries. You can't achieve back to school readiness without having specific goals about what readiness would look like for you. The first step is to imagine how you want to feel as you head into the new school year. And then identify specific goals you can set for the summer to help you get there. And next, you need boundaries. Setting clear boundaries about when where and how you will work on school related tasks this summer will help you and everyone else in your life know what to expect. And it will help you honor the time you set aside for non work related priorities as well. If you know that you have decided when and how you will work on school tasks.

In this episode, we're going to discuss what these ideas look like in action. And we're gonna do that by designing our own summer plans together. And we have not spent any time discussing this together or I don't know about Heidi, but I haven't even thought about this. So you're gonna hang out with us for a spontaneous discussion of these ideas and see how we can each come up with our own summer plans together. Heidi, we're going to start with you. Let's design your summer. You are up first. Okay, how are you feeling going into summer?

I'm actually feeling pretty anxious. And I don't think I would have identified that if I hadn't known this is going to be one of the questions. So I can already see some benefit from this. Yeah, I'm feeling anxious. Okay. We have a lot of work deadlines coming up. We're not going back to school, like normal teachers go back. Yeah, so we want to make that clear. This year, we're not heading back into the classroom. So the readiness we're getting ready for is for creating resources and training to help other teachers.

But even though we're not going back to school, we have a lot of back to school deadlines. And also, somehow, like, my body hasn't figured out that I'm not going back to school. And in August, like that traditional panic sets in, which is understandable every summer since 1984. Every August has meant back to school. And so it's just like habitually kicks off. And then it triggers a flare up of my autoimmune disease. And then I'm just down for the count for potentially weeks, for no reason besides just stress. And we don't want that to happen again this year. So we're going to be proactive about your recovery. So what would relaxation what would relax look like for you what is fun and freeing to you?

The fact that I'm leading summer with anxiety probably shouldn't surprise anyone. If I say relax is the least natural. That's the one I have to think about too. That's why I really like Gretchen Rubin's approach where she picks like a theme for the summer. And her themes are way more intense than like did like the summer Proust and I'm not doing that and no, but I like using the idea a couple of summers ago, I did the summer of Audrey Hepburn. And it was just like, fun kind of whimsical to have this random focus of energy. So way like read a biography about her and her efforts during World War II, which was fascinating. And listen to podcast and watch her movies in order. And it was just kind of a fun little project that had no checklists. No priorities it just was was what it was. And then I did the summer of Harry Potter a couple years ago. Last year, I did the summer of Sebastian, which was a whole thing reading novels where the main characters called Sebastian, because I just I really do need something light and whimsical to balance out all of the deadlines and pressure of the back to school time that we go into in the summer. But I can't come up with anything for the summer. I'm leaning toward the summer of organization because I need it because I live in my office. And I live in my classroom, because both of those things are my house. And we taught preschool here up until the pandemic so and then we just kind of left things up in the air. So everything was set up. You know, from the day that the kids went home and didn't come back and we didn't even know that day. They weren't coming back. I'm sure you all know how that went. So I just have never really addressed it. So I've got piles of work stuff, piles of preschool stuff. I'm tired of living in piles. Yes. So I do need that organization. But I'm afraid that's going to turn into another check. I feel like you can't count that for relaxing. addition. Okay, that has to be for I think you could maybe have that as part of your readiness, or maybe a different area of recovery. But I think that doesn't count for for relaxation. Well, maybe I could, like spin out and be like, organizing, get togethers with people. Okay. But then that falls into, like, I have to make, you know, I have to pin down plans, and then yes, you know how that's gonna go like 100%? We can, we can all predict how well that's going to turn out. So I think you need something that is more freeing. I don't have anything off the top of my head, but I'm gonna keep a pin on it. If you guys have any ideas of like, the summer of something. Yeah. Just something that I can't turn into a pass or fail activity.

Yes. Yes. Okay. So then the next area is refresh. What makes you feel like you? What are you going to do to refresh?

One thing, I realized, as we were having this discussion the past two weeks, is that something that makes me feel like me is having meals in my freezer, which is so random. But as someone who doesn't like to cook, and neither do I, yeah, it just, it is so key to my life to just have like meals in the fridge that I can just pull out and I know I have the luxury of not having to cook for anyone else. So like, I can make it easy and just cook like if I make a big casserole, and I freeze it that I can eat that for a week. But I have never done that in the summer. I'm usually pretty good about doing that around Christmas time. Because again, that type of stress tends to trigger my autoimmune disease. So I just try and do what I can to mitigate that stress. And I think I need that same focus around summer stress. I just have never paid attention to that. So I need some freezer meals. So yesterday I did I cooked a big batch of soup, which doesn't sound like a great summer recipe but if reasons. So I have one, I have one stash of meals.

Okay, so are you going to make a plan for doing some more freezer cooking? Yes, I've got ingredients to make two more. I'm trying to jump on it this weekend while the temperature is still cool, because it's supposed to be like pushing 90 by next week. Great. So trying to do that. Well, you know, even hard is to heat up the house. Yes. When it's that hot. It's trying to get those done. So that would give me quite a few meals. And then maybe if I can just add like a meal or two in every few weeks, I can get enough servings out of it that I can I can stretch it for a while.

That's a good plan. That's good. Okay, so refocus is next, what keeps you fastened to your foundation? What are you going to do that feels like a refocused recovery. I really like taking time in the morning before work and having like a little time for study. So I read a professional development book, and I read like a church book, and then I read my scriptures. But I find that if I'm feeling any work pressure at all, like that just immediately gets cut. Because it's like, I just don't have time. When I'm my own boss, I can do what I want. But it just feels so frivolous to spend time doing those things, when I have, you know, work demands that require attention. But I feel so much more like a human, when I do take that time. And so I'm setting the intention that I am going to give myself permission to just have that study time in the morning. Because logically, I know I, A, have all the time I need and be taking time to like study for 30 or 40 minutes isn't going to make or break anything. Right? Like I'm lying to myself when I say that when I'm feeling that pressure. And I know that it's just hard to recognize when you're feeling stressed. And also maybe if you set up like a don't break the chain or something, it will make it more like you're fulfilling a goal by doing this every day. Oh, that's a good idea. I'm pretty good about like, I had a good run. I can't stop that now. So I'm actually pretty good about that. That's a good idea.

Thank you. Okay, lastly, recharge what fills you up?

I actually really like what we do for our job. Yes, we're lucky in that way. But I think I need to take on a project, maybe outside of what we are normally doing. Does that make sense? So something that's not so okay, we're about to step into doing the fourth grade morning work. And I know it's gonna be a huge project. And it's gonna take a lot of mental energy to be able to pull this together. So I think maybe I need a side project that doesn't have a deadline that is maybe really outside of what we normally do just to pivot a little bit so I can feel more creative and more, just enjoy the process of making things instead of meeting demands. And you tried that already before ones and did you feel like that helped you recharge when you were doing that with those place value practice pages?

I did I mean, place value for fun, but it was actually quite enjoyable. But then I did have the problem of like it became an issue where it was pulling too much focus from the third grade morning work that had to get done. And so I got way behind on that. Although the problem with the place value now that I'm thinking about it is that we did have a deadline on that. Oh, that's true. We were including it in a promotion. So we did need to have those done by If you were doing something new that we didn't have plans for it, that place value started out as just you were doing it for fun. But then once you got into it, and we had this opportunity come up, it did include a deadline that was not originally part of your plan. Yes, I think that's I think that's where it got off track, which is good to recognize. So I'm going to try and pick something, maybe just a little bit out of left field from what we normally do. So I can just enjoy the creative process of it without the pressure of having it done.

Okay, great. Okay, so moving on from recovery, let's talk about readiness. How do you want to feel in August, when you are ending the summer heading into the fall? How do you want to feel?

I really want to feel like we are in a good position with everything that we've got going on that maybe things aren't necessarily done. But we've made a head start, and we've got maybe a little bit of a cushion, in case I do trigger my autoimmune flare up that if I need to rest for a little bit in September, I can.

And ideally, the plan that we're making here will help avoid that flare up. But it's good to plan ahead, just in case it does happen so that you will be prepared to give yourself some space. Yeah, absolutely. I don't want to end up more behind trying to recover. Right and you'll you'll be able to recover better knowing you gave yourself a good head start. Yeah. So what are the specific goals for you this summer that you want to achieve for work?

So I think the biggest pressure and feeling is to have the morning work for fourth grade, at least got a really good start on it so that teachers have enough to start the school year. And I have that push if I need it. Ideally, like the first term, it would be awesome to have that totally done. And I think I can do it. But it's really easy to say that in May. If I think I can do I think I can do it. I'm gonna think positively.

Yes, I believe in you. So what boundaries should you set around work this summer?

I think having the permission to take the morning to just start the way I want with, you know, some study and reflection, maybe even journal which Whoa, I know, seems nuts. I think that will help a lot because it helps me just kind of get in the right framework. And it helps me just silence the voice that's just always telling me that I'm not doing enough that need to be doing more that we're running out of time that if I can set the boundary around protecting that morning time, I will have a healthier time when I am working. And because this is our job. Obviously I'm working on this every day. So it's not like you know, when I was teaching them, I'd be like, Well, I'm only gonna work two days a week. Right? It doesn't work. But I think just trying to go into it with a healthier mindset. Is it really important boundary to hold?

Great. So do you feel like we designed your summer?

I think so I need to maybe dial into relax a little more. Yes, I completely agree. That's a stretch, but I think we need an update. Next time we record on what you've decided to do for relaxation, it'd be good to be held accountable.

Hey, it's Emily interrupting this episode to invite you to join us for our free design your summer challenge. This challenge will help you identify what you need for recovery this summer and make a plan for back to school readiness. You can sign up now at We hope you'll join us.

Hey guys, Heidi here, our conversation ended up going a little longer than we'd anticipated. So we're gonna end it here for this week. And we hope that you will join us next week where we pick up the rest of the conversation and help Emily design her summer.

Now let's talk about this week's teacher approved tip. Each week, we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week's teacher approved tip is have students help at the end of your cleanup. So as you're making your list of everything you need to do at the end of the year, kind of just note things that maybe the kids could help you with. And then on one of the last I was didn't one of the last afternoons that weren't interrupted by field day or performances or whatever, I just make list on the board like taking labels off the coat hooks, cleaning on the whiteboards, checking all the dry erase markers, you know all of those tedious stuff kids can do it and put on some music and just make it a party kids have a great time with that. And I tried to make sure to assign kids strategically to tasks so maybe my more detail focused kids got tasks that needed some more thought and then my less detailed focus kids you know, the ones I'm talking about, got tasks that weren't so demanding. One thing that I found super helpful for maybe some of those kids is to put unifix cubes like colors in groups of 10 and it actually does help to have all that done but it also ate up a big chunk of time.

To wrap up the show we're sharing what we're giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, where are you giving extra credit to?

I am giving extra credit to the TMJ exercises on that I stumbled on last summer in the middle of my stress breakdown. Because I my jaw clincher, and it caused a lot of pain. And so I found these exercises, these nine TMJ exercises that actually do such a good job to help relieve the pain. I was actually just the other night thinking about all this back to school stuff, I started to like melt down a little bit, and the other jaw goes and so I was trying to go to sleep, couldn't sleep was up at 2;30. Did these exercises and they just solved the problem. So if you are also a jaw clincher, the TMJ exercises have been a lifesaver. We'll put the link in the show notes. And how about you Emily,

I'm giving extra credit to Storyworth this just reminded me when we're coming up on Father's Day. Storyworth is a service that you can sign up for. And it will send you a relative a weekly prompt to record a memory or a story about their lives. And then after a year, you can compile the stories into a book and add pictures to it and get it printed and delivered. So we did this for our dad a couple of years ago. And the book we got back was just so amazing. I think we gave it to him for Father's Day last year. So I think that's why it's sticking in my head. And it was really great to read many stories from our dad's life that we'd never heard before. We thought we'd heard them all. But there were new ones we'd never heard before. This would be a really great gift for Father's Day or any upcoming holiday or birthday. And it kind of feels like a double gift because you give them the subscription. And then a year later, you get to give them this amazing book too. It really is a treasure.

And that's it for today's episode. Get to work designing your summer with recovery and readiness in mind. And don't forget today's teacher approved tip to have students help you tidy the classroom at the end of the year.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.