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Recovering from the School Year [episode 12]


Click below to listen to recovering from the school year:

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Morning Message: 

[00:57] What is the best part of summer?

Every teacher loves the summertime! It’s something we all have in common, but what we look forward to can be different. We said the idea that anything is possible – you feel like you can conquer and do anything, and the longer days and the fact that it stays light out longer. 

Our listeners responded to the same question with sleeping in (which honestly, we all have in common!), going out on a weeknight, spending time with your own children, getting to be on the beach, freedom to go to the bathroom whenever we want, not having to pack a lunch, and finally, catching up with family and friends again.

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 12:

It’s that point in the year where summer is just around the corner and that’s the only thing on our mind. The way we spend our summers may be different, but we all still need the same thing after a long year: recovery. On today’s episode, we’re providing plans on how you can recover from the school year. 

There are two types of summer for a teacher: I don’t want to hear the word school or have anything to do with it, or I need to get busy and check everything off my to-do list or I won’t be ready for the fall. Which summer version are you? 

Regardless of which type you are, we want to make sure that you are recovering from the school year. And that can look differently for everyone. However, the way you go about designing your summer needs to be thought-out or it’ll slip by before you know it. A few things to consider when designing your summer are making sure you’re getting the type of recovery that you need, and making sure you’re starting the school year at a position of strength. 

In order to achieve both of those tasks, we’ve established 4 areas of recovery: relax, refresh, refocus, and recharge. As we dive deeper into each of these areas in the episode, begin thinking about how you can translate them to your own summer and happiness. 

The summer months bring an endless amount of possibilities for whatever you want it to be. But there’s a mindset of readiness that’s founded on goals and boundaries. You’ve earned this time to find what brings you joy and happiness as you recover from the school year. 

Next week we’re going to dive into how to apply these ideas in action when truly designing your own summer, so come back for next week’s conversation! 

In this episode on recovering from the school year, we discuss:

  • Questions to ask yourself regarding recovering over the summer
  • The 4 areas of recovery 
  • Breakdown common summer activities and show how we apply our categories and questions regarding recovery
  • Why establishing goals and boundaries can help you achieve your idealistic summer

This week’s teacher approved tip:

[19:43] Try using a lollipop tree at the end of the year

Looking for a fun incentive for the end of the year? We’ve got you covered! Make a tree and fill it with Dum Dum suckers, which can be enough of a reward, but let’s take it up a notch. Put a different color at the bottom of each sucker, which correlates to a bigger prize. 

For more fun ideas like this, check out @headoverheelsforteaching on Instagram.

What we’re giving extra credit to this week:

[21:16] Heidi is giving extra credit to the Class of 2022

[22:33] Emily is giving extra credit to @Miss.Freddy on Instagram


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Read the transcript for episode 12, Recovering from the School Year:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’ll be discussing how to recover from a crazy school year and sharing a teacher approved tip for end of year incentives. We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning messages what is the best part of summer? Heidi, what do you think?

I always think it’s the possibilities. Everything or anything seems possible in the summer like, I’m going to be the person I’ve always known I could and do all the things I’ve always imagined I would: spoiler alert that has yet to happen. But it seems like it could. What about you Emily?

For me, it’s the long days. I just feel like a summer day is twice as long as a winter day. The sun staying up so late just fills me up with life. I love it so much. I know it’s not everybody’s favorite. But oh, I live for these long summer days. Oh, I know. I just feel so much more human with all the light. And there’s just something about a summer evening in Utah. If you’ve ever been here, it’s just like, perfection.

We have some answers from our community too. Shreeka said sleeping in. And many of you agreed with her on that sentiment. Yes, I know my one summer goal is not to have to wake up to an alarm clock. Yes. Adrienne said, being able to go out on a weeknight. It feels like such a luxury. Sharon said spending time with my own child. Oh, I love that. Rachel said hanging out at the beach. That sounds heavenly. We’re mountain girls, but we’ll give you the beat. Nicole said freedom to pee when you want. And not having to pack a lunch. Both of those sounds luxurious. Beth said catching up with family and friends, especially teacher friends in other districts. I just love all that free time to actually do things. And Joyce said lunch with friends, late nights and baseball games.

Now I’m feeling super excited for summer. How about you, Heidi?

I know it’s hard to believe that we’re finally wrapping up another crazy school year, and the end is in sight.

And truly summer is more magical as a teacher than it ever was as a kid. It’s a season of possibility after a season of just so much demand.

We go into summer with everything we think will do. If you’re like me, right? We’re gonna have the picnics and the cousin sleepovers. And we’re going to read the professional development books. And then finally laminate all of our math games. You know how teachers think. And we assume because something is important that we’re going to make time for it. Because hey, we’ve got nothing but empty spaces on the calendar and plenty of ideas to fill it. But then somehow we blink and it’s the middle of August, and we haven’t done any of it. If we don’t make at least a few plans, our summer just totally slips by.

And we’ve all experienced that. As author Greg McEwan says if you don’t prioritize your life, someone will do it for you. So you have to decide for yourself what you want this summer to look like or the days will just magically get filled in with other things.

So thinking about your summer as teachers, we easily fall into two modes either I am doing nothing for school and do not say the school word where I might hear it. Or I am doing everything for school, I must be checking things off my to do list every single day, or I will never be ready. And I have done both extremes. After my first few years of teaching, I decided that the summer was mine because they weren’t paying me for my time and I was tired of donating it for free. So I didn’t do any schoolwork at all. And my summer was great. Until it was terrible. They say that stress doesn’t cause ulcers, but it definitely doesn’t help if you already have them and asked me how I know that. After that rough year I got obsessive about my back to school prep. I had pages of categorize to do lists but you know I had a clipart because it is summer after all right? Gotta keep it fun. I have to make the to do list teachery and I do enjoy preparation. But I had such unrealistic expectations of doing it all perfectly and having it all perfectly ready that I actually became really anxious. Every week that went by it ramped up the panic because I wasn’t getting enough done. And as I’m sure you could predict, I started the school year already feeling burned out. Both of these are really easy traps to fall into.

Sometimes we lean toward complete freedom for the summer, because we want our summers to feel fun and free. Or we dig into schoolwork because we know the avalanche that awaits us in the fall. But neither of those approaches really serves us well, because we’re just falling into patterns, without taking the time to figure out what we really need to get out of our summers. And spoiler alert, it may change from one summer to the next, there’s not some magic recipe that will be true every single summer.

I know if I had been more reflective, I might have realized that what I was looking for was a mixture of recovery and readiness, I needed to plan for recovery because you know how it is at the end of the school year you are beyond exhausted. And then I also needed that space to learn to love teaching again. But I also needed a plan for readiness so that I wasn’t setting myself up to be completely burned out by September 15. And that’s how I came to the realization that I needed to design my summer.

Taking time to design your summer can solve two problems. First, you make sure you’re getting the type of recovery you need, because there’s lots of different ways to recover. And second, you can make sure you’re starting the new year from a position of strength. And don’t we all need that. When it comes to designing your summer, the first question to ask yourself is, what kind of recovery do I need this summer? So we’re going to break it down into four areas of recovery. To give students positive and productive ways to switch gears, we created a bunch of brain breaks, and we organize those brain breaks into three categories. And we’re gonna borrow those today. They’re refresh, refocus, and recharge. And because we’re talking about end of year recovery, we’re going to add a fourth category for relax.

So here’s what recovery looks like in our four categories. Let’s start with relax, because that might be the most essential form of recovery. For this type of recovery. You can ask yourself what is fun and freeing. What makes you smile, laugh or feel carefree? Do you need to check out for a while, like playing a game on your phone? Or do you need to check in with an engaging, fun experience. And remember, what’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa?

That turns out there’s no fun police.

You can truly just do what you like, Yes, perfect. Whatever you find fun is what you need to relax. The second type of recovery is refresh. So that’s asking what makes you feel like you. Maybe it’s reconnecting with friends or spending time outside. Maybe you like to write poetry or binge a TV show. Maybe you’re a crafter, maybe you really like walking the dog or listening to podcasts, you can do both of those together. But think about the things that help you feel a little more centered. Our third category is refocus. So what keeps you fastened to your foundation, after a stressful school year, we all need to get back to basics on some level. So think about what you need to be able to function is it staying on top of the laundry, having date night, making time for exercise or meal planning? Maybe you need to refocus on yoga in the park or your daily devotional. You need to maybe refocus on any rituals of starting or ending your day or being intentional about connecting with your kids. Consider the routines and rituals that help you feel like a person and not just a tired teacher or tired mom. And we can’t leave out recharge. And that’s asking what fills you up? Are you into travel, working toward a big goal. Maybe it’s organizing the whole closet or going running in the morning. Maybe it’s hosting a family dinner or learning a new skill. Maybe you love to do all of those things. Or maybe they all sound miserable. What matters is that you set aside time to recharge doing the things that fill you up. Recovery is so personal. And like Emily mentioned, it varies from person to person from summer to summer. And it can even vary from day to day. The first thing you need to do is decide what do you need for recovery.

We thought it would be helpful if we break down some common summer activities. And we apply our categories and questions to decide how you might want to include them in your recovery plans. Or maybe you’ll realize you don’t want to include them at all, and that’s cool, too. So reading is on the summer to do list for a lot of teachers. Here’s how you might approach reading if you’re focused on recovery. So if you’re looking to relax, you could zone out with a fluffy beach read or the latest romance novel. I’m currently reading Book Lovers by the way so far really like it This isn’t the time to worry if your book is improving your mind or if it’s the title your book club will be talking about. If the goal here is to relax, all you need to know is is it a fun read? Does it help you escape and make you feel carefree? That no matter what the title is, this is the book you should be reading no judgement here. If you’re looking to feel refreshed, you could turn to an old favorite comfort read, or a book your third grade teacher read to you. Pick up the books that make you feel most like yourself. If you’re wanting to feel refocused. Maybe you want to read a how to book or a book about education. Maybe you want a book that teaches a new skill or connects you to a spiritual practice. If you need to feel refocused use your summer to read books that help fasten you to your foundation. If you want to get a recharge from your reading, this is your chance to read that book everyone’s been talking about. Or maybe you want to make your reading a big project and read everything written by a certain author or tackle a whole series. Summer Reading can help you recharge when you choose books that fill you up.

Besides reading, lots of people have vacations and their summer plans, especially now that we can finally get back to vacation. If you’re planning to travel, are you looking to relax? If you need relaxing travel plan a day trip to the beach or the mountains, you might want to go to the big city or a nearby museum. Whatever sounds fun and freeing and low stress to you is the perfect kind of travel for relaxing. If you want to feel refreshed, you might visit your parents. Or you could drive up to Maine like you used to when you were growing up. Maybe you want to rent a cabin in the mountains for a low key getaway. Think about what kind of travel makes you feel like you. To refocus, maybe this is your chance to visit a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Or maybe it’s time to organize a meet up with your college roommates. Or visit the town your grandma grew up in. I had to do that one summer and it was wonderful. Finding a way to use travel to keep you fasten to your foundation will help you feel refocused. But a big travel adventure can help you feel recharged. You could take a road trip across the state or visit another country if that’s in the budget. But if it’s not, you could look at the touristy spots in your city and play tourist and visit all the things at home. Think about what kind of travel fills you up and then make a plan to achieve it.

And let’s do one more. Let’s apply these questions to parenting which a lot of us will be doing during the summer. If you need to relax with parenting, what’s fun and freeing for you. Summer is a good time to have some extra flexibility and freedom as a parent. Do you want to let bedtimes be a little more loosey goosey during the summer. That’s a hard one for me to loosen up on. But sometimes it’s nice to just kind of, it’s okay if we stay up a little late tonight. Maybe you want to allow a little more screen time than usual or that might look like adding in some light hearted silliness into your day by doing something like dance parties or water balloon fights or staying up late to watch a movie. But if you’re looking to refresh your parenting, maybe that looks like prioritizing time outdoors every day, or making time for creating art together or going on adventures. I know lots of families love doing little summer adventures. Lean into whatever parts of parenting really light you up, or the things that light you up personally, that you could invite your children or family to be part of. If you want to refocus with your parenting. Think about what keeps you fasten to your foundation. Look at your routines and rituals in your home life. Is there a familiar routine that you’ve let fall by the wayside that you want to return to in the summer, you might want to consider adding in a special ritual that’s new and just for summer, like turning on a backyard firepit on summer, Saturday nights just to roast marshmallows, or going to the library every Tuesday morning to pick out new books for the week. These routines and rituals are a great way to reconnect to your role as a parent, and to cultivate the feelings and memories you want your family to have this summer. Lastly, if what you need out of parenting this summer is to recharge, think about what fills you up. This is where you need to decide what you love doing as a parent and do more of it. Would you love a big family adventure bucket list that you’re going to whittle away at all summer long. Personally, that sounds like a nightmare to me. Because I would feel like we had to do everything on that list. But I know some people love doing that. Maybe you want to plan a weekly outing with some friends or family members. Or maybe you want to host a playdate at your house every week. You might want to set a family goal for the summer, like learning to play pickleball together or completing a certain number of jigsaw puzzles or doing a family Reading Challenge. Just remember that this really only works to recharge you, if you do specifically what you like to do. If this list sounds awful to you, ignore all of our suggestions, and pick something that you love to do that fills you up.

Hopefully, these examples, I’ve given you some ideas of how you can work recovery into your summer plans, maybe you’re gonna find that you need a mix of all four of those areas. But maybe you’re so exhausted from the past two years that you just need to dial into relaxing, and let everything else go for a while. If that is what you need, then we hope that is exactly what you do. Yes, we’re writing you a permission slip right now to just relax this summer.

It’s possible to design your summer around your recovery plans, and still be working toward back to school, we can still have the popsicles and campfires and staying up late. And everything that makes them are magical. But those things don’t have to come at the cost of completely ignoring what’s on the horizon. Making an intentional plan for how to get ready for back to school frees you to focus on the right now. That’s because ignoring the to do list isn’t actually making our break more enjoyable. It’s making it harder to be present. with what’s happening right now, when we’ve got a to do list just constantly scrolling in the back of our minds. I think we’ve all experienced that. Oh, for sure.

But that definitely doesn’t mean sacrificing your whole summer in the name of preparation. What you need is a mindset of readiness that’s founded on goals and boundaries. If you really want to make the time that you spend on school related tasks during the summer, a meaningful use of your time, you have to have goals. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish this summer, how will you know if you’ve done it? It’s easy to say you’re going to work one morning a week on school stuff. And then that morning rolls around, and you don’t have any sort of plan for what you want to do with that time. And before you know it the morning will be over. And you’re likely to leave unsure if you actually accomplished what you set out to accomplish. So setting clear goals for what you want to achieve for your back to school readiness will help guide what you do with your time. Imagine is the end of the summer, and you were starting school feeling more prepared than ever? What tasks would you need to tackle between now and then to give you that feeling. If you’re not sure what types of activities lend themselves to summer prep, check out episode 10 of our podcast where we break down what you can do now for next fall. Think of it as giving your future self a gift.

Once you’ve figured out your work goals, then you need to set 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 be clear on what this summer will look like. For example, you may decide that you’re not going to do anything for school in the month of June. And then prioritize more recovery tasks instead. Or you may decide that you’re going to work in your classroom or on school tasks only on Wednesdays. Boundaries will help your friends and family know what to plan on, but it will help you with your summer plans as well. Knowing your boundaries can help you if you get a work related request during the summer. Say your team member wants to talk about your grade level science rotations, boundaries will free you up to be able to say I’m going to be working on school stuff next Wednesday, let’s chat about it then. Boundaries also work the other way and that they protect your summer activities. If you’re being swayed by that to do list and feeling tempted to work on school stuff outside of the specified time, you can remind yourself that no, this is summertime, this is family time. And protect that time and save your work for the time that you’ve set aside specifically for your school tasks. And you’ll be able to enjoy that time with your family more knowing that to do lists that’s nagging at you, you can tell yourself, I am going to be working on that at whatever time you know is ahead for you.

So to recap, when you’re designing your summer plans, make sure to consider what kind of recovery you need, and what you want to do for readiness for the upcoming year. Now next week, we’re going to dive into how to apply these ideas in action when truly designing your own summer. So make sure to come back next week and listen and get ready to apply these ideas.

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 to try using a lollipop tree at the end of the year. Emily, can you tell us more about this?

Yes. So our friend Joanne on the Instagram account @headoverheelsforteaching shared this idea recently and she said that we could share it with you here on the podcast. She made a lollipop tree for her class, which you can make using a styrofoam cone from a craft store, and then you stick in little Dum Dum sort of suckers into the stand stick first until you filled in the whole tree with the round part of the suckers all sticking out.

And it looks so fun have this whole cone decorated very smooth. And just offering suckers as a reward is already pretty fun as an end of your incentive, but Joanne kicked it up a notch by using a marker color in the bottom of a few of the sticks. And then those colors correlated to a few bigger prizes. So if a kid picked a sucker with a red stick red circle on the bottom, they got a bigger prize. And we thought this was such a simple way to add in a little bit of fun to the last few weeks of school. If you want to see more ideas like this, make sure you’re following @headoverheelsforteaching on Instagram. And we will link to her in the show notes. Thanks for the idea, Joanne and thanks for letting us share it.

To wrap up the show. It’s time for us to share what we’re giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to?

I am giving extra credit to the class of 2022. A few of the kids in my neighborhood are graduating in the next few weeks. And I’m just so excited to watch them take their next steps in life. I’ve known him since they were you know, like 10. So it’s been fun to watch them grow up. And this class of kids have had a high school experience like no other and they’ve had to navigate a lot to get where they are. So I’m just extra proud of them for reaching this milestone and I just feel like they’re proud Auntie either down the street just so excited for them. What about you, Emily, what’s your extra credit?

I’m giving extra credit to Miss Freddy on Instagram and her Instagram is Miss.Freddy. She is a photo organizer. And she shares the most amazing tips for getting all of your photos organized. I’ve taken her course called Backup Boot Camp. And it’s seriously so helpful and easy to follow. And she walks you through how to like get all the photos from all of your old phones and old laptops and your current computer and get them all centralized in one place in a really easy to follow way. And she also shares so many useful ideas for keeping things organized on your phone with the Notes app. And she gives tips for using your phone camera better and understanding your Mac. If you use a Mac computer, I just highly recommend following her account to help you get your photos and files organized. I just think she’s great.

And I’m sure we can all use some of that. That’s it for today’s episode. Design a summer that includes plans for recovery and plans for back to school readiness. Be sure to listen again next week when we dive into these ideas in action. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip to try a sucker tree for rewards 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.