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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

Relax, Refuel, Renew, Reflect and Plan
Theresa London Cooper

“You are in a profession that recognizes that more than most the need for “time out.”  Yet many teachers don’t take advantage of the breaks to them.  As a result, they lose their enthusiasm and energy for what they are doing.  When opportunities arise, make a point of using them.  Take time to plan ahead, and revitalize your teaching and your life. “ 

Richard Carlson, Ph.D.
The Don’t Sweat Guide for  Teachers: Cutting Through the Clutter So That Every Day Counts

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching.  On the final day, when you have taught your last lesson, have said goodbye to your last student and hugged your dearest colleagues, it’s time to relax, refuel, renew, reflect, and ultimately plan for another year. After twenty-one years of teaching, I have found the process I’m going to share with you invaluable in keeping me refreshed, energetic, and passionate about teaching and learning.

On that final day or sometime soon after, I take several minutes to unwind and then jot down a few ideas to remember and implement in the upcoming year. I then store the list in a safe and memorable place.  Next, if I’m not teaching summer school, I take the month of July to relax and refuel and the month of August to renew, reflect and plan.

I find that it takes some time to wind down before I can actually relax and believe that the school year is over. See a good movie, take a leisurely stroll in the park, read a good book or sleep a bit later.  I arrange a few dinner dates to see friends who I have been wanting to visit, but haven’t had the time to.

Then, take a vacation with someone special if possible. Enjoy a cruise. Sometimes I take a trip to a far away place like Alaska or one a bit closer to my home like the mountains of Vermont (I plan the trip during one of my breaks during the school year).  I learn about the people and the place.  I go sight seeing, shop and dine out.  I purchase a few souvenirs to remind me of what made the place special to me.

Next, think of the best ways to renew your mind, your strength, and your practice. It could be exercise, prayer, meditation, and/or conversations with family, friends and colleagues.  It could be a day at a spa.  I usually take one-day seminars to give me a new and deeper perspective on some aspect of teaching and learning. Like many people, I sometimes feel the need to rest after a vacation.

Although we want to spend some time relaxing and having fun during our summer vacation, it’s the perfect time to think about the past academic year, what went well, what challenges occurred and what to do next year.  Take a look at your notes and lesson plans if they will help you with your upcoming assignment. Professionals reflect on their practice in order to refine it.

Now, where is the list with the ideas I jotted at the end of the year?  I use it to get started as I answer the following questions: How will I begin my school year? What will be the first steps to implement my new ideas?

As a classroom teacher I asked what will I do with my students on the first day and in the first week? What materials will I use?  When will I send my introduction letter to the parents?  Will I call the parents the night before school starts or will I call them during the first week to introduce myself and welcome them?  What new strategy(ies) will I try with my students?  Answers to these questions help to support my action plan.

I hope you can use some aspect of my process to help you enjoy your summer, re-energize yourself and plan for the upcoming school year.  Keep Carlson’s quote in mind understanding that we can only motivate our students if we are enthusiastic about what we do.  You owe it to yourselves as professionals and the students you teach.

E-mail Theresa.


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