Typically, we hear the "summer slide" as the two months of summer when students do very little educational work and return to school as if they have forgotten everything from the previous school year.
Well, I think teachers experience their own version of summer slide, but it's more so related to the amount of time and attention we give ourselves during the year versus the summer.
In my ten years of teaching, summers went kind of like this….
June: Recovering. My days were all over the place just trying to catch up on all the things I’d missed out on doing during the school year. Lots of sleep, but not being able to sleep in because my body was so used to being up at 5:30 AM. Overall, I just watched June pass me by without really doing much for myself because I didn’t have the energy to.
July: Rest. Okay my body has accepted that we’re on a long break and we can let loose. This is when I started to have fun, really relax, and take care of myself. I felt like me again. Not teacher me, but just me. The problem was that this me was unfamiliar. She was happy, carefree and relaxed. She was open to dates and trips. She laughed and had so much fun. I realized that I was keeping her hidden during the school year because I was trying so hard to be the perfect teacher who had it all together.
August: Ready. The emails started coming and I was actually checking them. Why? I didn’t wanna miss out on anything. I just knew there was an important update that I just NEEDED to know about, or if I’m being honest, some change that I knew would tick me off. Between brainstorming my classroom theme, hustling to get my classroom wish list cleared, and meeting with my team to plan, August literally flew by.
I returned to school feeling refreshed but still exhausted. After years of always being on go mode, I just got used to it. I accepted that this was the way it was and that I would be in the position until I retired.
So the cycle continued for about five years.
I was on go mode from August-June and only truly rested during the month of July. This summer slide experience was when I spent all summer pouring into myself and doing all the things I loved, only for it to come to an abrupt stop when the school year began.
I knew that I had to make some major shifts to continue teaching. I knew I couldn’t leave “summer Caitlin” (as my husband calls her) behind every school year.
I had to audit my work habits and mindset (ya know, the boring, but super beneficial part of self care). I started with my identity. Questioning who I was OUTSIDE of being a teacher. I began writing and affirming myself weekly with affirmations. Slowly, my mindset and perspective began to change as I rediscovered who I was. Small, but mighty acts of self love and compassion helped me learn how to truly practice self care, year-round.
Here are five ways you can beat the summer teacher slide and take summer you back to school in the fall.
Challenge your work habits. Reflect on the past school year and ask yourself questions that will help you unpack why you do some of the things you do. For me, I had to stop checking my email every morning. Not only did it cause anxiety, but it disrupted the peace in my morning routine.
Establish a morning and nightly routine. Five minutes can make a huge difference! Stretching or journaling each day are beneficial for your mental and physical health. Commit to starting your day with a morning workout or upbeat playlist to get you going. All of these can be continued throughout the school year with consistency.
Get an accountability partner. Grab your mentor, teammate, or teacher bestie to help keep you on track. Just like you plan your lessons, you have to plan time for community. Share your goals with one another and commit to supporting one another.
Set boundaries and assess often. This may come naturally with challenging your work habits, but they are so needed. A boundary is a limit you put in place to protect your well-being. This can be tricky as many of the things causing teacher stress are out of our control. However, by implementing boundaries in areas within the realm of your control, you can reap the benefits. This can look like leaving at contract time, practicing saying "no," avoiding gossip, systematizing your materials, and so much more.
Make time for self care. Make yourself a priority. Remember, that self care looks different for everyone. Your car may not take the same amount or grade of gas as mine does, AND THAT'S OKAY! Taking time to refuel your tank is essential to continuing the work you are doing.
Need help and don't know where to start? Click the link below to grab a FREE summer self care plan to determine your needs and brainstorm some new routines and boundaries. Best of luck to you this summer.