This gives me a chance to review the previous year and start preparing for the next. I have often thought about what sort of things I can do to make my teaching experience better while having a bit of a break during the summer, to relax away from work, whilst also keeping my hand in.
This is what I have come up with...
1. Think about things you want to change (Preparation, planning and action).
I want to increase my free-time and reduce my planning time. So for me that means that I need to sort out my filing, as I have literally thousands of documents, lessons, videos and mp3 recordings that all need sorting so I can find them easier. I should have had a proper filing system from the start, but I didn't and recently this has been compounded by a new laptop.
I also want to have some pre-prepared courses ready to go at a moment's notice. So as I plough through my files in the summer sun I will be collating the appropriate materials for a beginners, intermediate and advanced 10 hour course. I may do this for academic, tourist and business students too, if that doesn't prove too ambitious a goal.
2. The five items feedback method.
I heard about this method from another teacher's blog. You hand out note cards to your students, on one side of the card you ask students to list five things that helped them learn during the year. On the other side, they'll write five things that made it hard for them to learn. You also take your own card and on each side write your predictions of what you think will be your students' most common answers. Later, compare the students' set with your predictions. See how accurate you were, and find items that give you ideas on how to improve your teaching. I thought it was a fantastic idea, and it has proven to be invaluable, especially when the lessons that I thought were total flops, in fact were their favourites! A real eye opener!
3. Start a journal.
As you start to have some more free time, start to write down your reflections from the months that have past, and you may find this process of gathering your thoughts as you write will help you to work towards a clear, organised mind and bring about new ideas and projects for the future.
4. Arm yourself with new resources
I don't mean lesson planning stuff here. I mean getting those new headphones for your online lessons, a mini whiteboard that you can take with you to private lessons (small kids love these, as it really gets them writing). I recently went wireless, with new headphones, speakers and printer. So much better! Check out the new technology and maybe make a little investment in your comfort! Something as simple as a new coffee pot was one of the 'vitals' on my list!
5. Truly take time out
Rest your brain. I tell my students that their brain is a muscle and like going to the gym, sometimes a rest is as good for you as practice or training. Take time to re-connect with family, friends and yourself, make time to just be! Do some cooking, read for pleasure not work, watch TV with total lazy abandon. Recharge those batteries.
If you goal is to become a better teacher then you must also personally find balance in yourself. Only then can you return renewed with joy, to face the opportunities to learn and collaborate.