During the summer, especially after many of us spent countless hours on video chats and creating virtual materials in the spring, it is important to take some time to detach and unplug. While ideally there would be several hours or even days when you can be unplugged from all devices, even spending an hour or two away can be a great way to recharge, relax your eyes, and take some time to connect with your family or take some time for yourself. Even turning your phone off at a certain time each night and not turning it on until the morning can make a big difference.
It is easy to feel isolated and disconnected from each other right now. Take some time to set up socially distanced or virtual meetings with family and friends. Meet for birthdays, theme meetings (including fun backgrounds), trivia nights, happy hours, or whatever it takes to encourage spending time together. It is important to connect and cultivate relationships, especially in a time when so many people must be distanced from each other.
Even in the summer, the lists of things that need to get done can be overwhelming. My attitude toward my many lists (and lists of lists) changed drastically after taking Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Work Week course. Now I pick my one thing that is the most important thing to do each day. The rest can wait. Schedule the things on your to do list for a day. For example, when I get a task I need to do, whether it is to write a blog post, create a lesson plan, or set up a meeting, I pick the day and time as soon as I receive it and put in on my calendar. Then that actionable item becomes the focus on that day. If you are interested, the link to the course is here: https://join.40htw.com/free
Take some time to read a good book. I always start the summer with an ambitious reading list, and while I never get to every book on my list, it is nice to make some time to read. Books are a wonderful way to escape and learn. Books on tape are another good option if your eyes are too tired at the end of the day or if you want to catch up on your reading in the car or while on the go. I like to ask friends for recommendations, but there are many great options out there. Also, as many libraries are still closed, there are options available for accessing books online and/or doing curbside pickup for books.
Something that can be challenging over the summer is finding time to practice the language you teach, especially if you are not speaking that language at home or have people to talk to in that language. I have been actively seeking opportunities to speak Latin, including teaching Latin phrases to my children (Nolite tangere, “don’t touch,” is heard frequently) and giving my students an optional opportunity to participate in a Zoom Latin book club. If you can speak with friends, watch movies or television shows, and listen to podcasts, music, and/or books on tape, that is great too. Any way to actively participate in the language is a wonderful opportunity.
If you have time, take a class! With so many classes available now virtually, there are many more options that are easily accessible from home. This could be something you are interested and want to learn more about, like cooking, yoga, or an exercise program. I decided to take a Spanish class geared towards Latin teachers offered by the amazing Slocum Bailey. After twenty years away from taking Spanish classes, I was amazed at how much came back and how much I retained from taking a class in the target language. It also gave me the opportunity to get a glimpse into what it must be like to be a student in a virtual language classroom. It gave me many ideas about how to engage students in the target language and create community and camaraderie among students.
Even though it sounds easy, it can be challenging to find time for self care in our busy days. It is important to put aside time that we can do something good for ourselves each day, even if that is ten minutes of meditation (the Headspace App is free for K-12 educators: ), a thirty minute walk, or an hour long nap. Self care is something that we do for ourselves to help us energize and be our best selves.
For some people, a great way to recharge is to get creative juices flowing. That could be as simple as coloring in a picture (which can be very relaxing), drawing, writing, or making something. For some of us, it may be recharging to create new materials for our classes as well. As we engage in creation, we can focus our energies on tangible making and doing.
As we consider the many uncertainties of our school year next year, it is important to take some time to reflect on our experiences with virtual learning last spring. What activities, assessments, and assignments worked well? What worked for our students? What was challenging? What might we do differently if we are faced with virtual learning again? How can we create community in our classrooms even if they are virtual? These questions and others are important to reflect upon as we start our school year so that we can be better prepared for whatever challenges we might face.
When I surveyed my students at the end of the year, almost every one of them said that the most challenging part of their online experience was missing connections with their classmates and school community. As we plan to begin the next school year, it is important to think about how we can best engage students from day one or even before. What are some activities that we can do to create community engagement in our classrooms? This could be starting with sharing special person interviews to have students share about themselves, creating opportunities for students to work together, making a gratitude board (or virtual board, such as Jamboard or Padlet), where students can share gratitude for each other, or playing games with students on teams for camaraderie such as Quizlet live or Kahoot. It could also be getting feedback from students, either through a class discussion or a Google exit ticket, about what is working best for them to create community. However we do it, creating an engaging, supportive classroom experience is one of the most important things we can do for our students this year and every year.