There's nothing better than summer break—and nothing worse than spending it worrying about the unfinished tasks waiting for you back in the classroom. Those final days of school are often a chaotic rush to wrap up and hurry out the door—who has the time to think about next year, let alone plan for it?
Further Reading: How Teachers Can Make the Most of Summer Break
Heeding these end-of-the-year teacher strategies will help you destroy any nagging school worries and regrets. You've spent months counting down the days to summer; let's make sure that you enjoy it.
1. Take Pictures
I know it's hard to imagine that you could forget what your classroom looks like. But trust me—it happens. Over the summer, most classrooms are turned upside down for deep cleaning, painting, or construction, and putting it back together without visual aids is tough.
Last year, I came into school on a cool, early August day to set up my classroom. My principal graciously offered to help me, and together we dragged computers, bookcases, file cabinets, and tables around my classroom. While stutter-stepping to carry a gigantic green kidney table from one corner of the room to another, I was overcome by sinking a feeling that we weren't going the right way. I told my principal to reverse course—but that didn't seem right, either.
In this moment of complete amnesia, I froze and started sweating buckets. My puzzled principal stared at me, probably wishing he'd just stayed in his office.
Had I taken photos of my classroom setup, I'd have saved myself a world of embarrassment. Take a few minutes before you check out to snap some photos of your classroom layout, where your computer cords and internet cables run, and anything else that'll help you to reassemble your classroom after the summer. You'll thank yourself come fall.
2. Plan for Professional Development
Summer is a break from the daily grind, but it's not the time to shirk all of your teaching responsibilities.
Securing a substitute and attending a workshop or conference during the school year just isn't an option available to many teachers. That leaves the work we need to do to complete our professional development and renew our teaching licenses hanging over our heads like an overdue trip to the dentist.
So the summer becomes the best time to put in those required clock hours. There are myriad options for in-person and online professional development opportunities, and doing some research will help you find some in your area. Learners Edge and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development are great places to find online courses, and some professional organizations post information about summer workshops or conferences.
3. Organize and Purge
Thanks to Marie Kondo, most of the world is becoming better organized and less cluttered. Well, except for teachers—the thousands of teacher closets, back rooms, and file cabinets piled high with dusty supplies, musty textbooks, and papers untouched since the 1980s are evidence that most end-of-the-year teacher strategies don't include decluttering.
For me, teacher checkout day usually begins with me slowly and carefully boxing up bookshelves and covering computers and ends with me frantically shoving piles of unsorted papers, cords, file folders, books, and the contents of 10 plastic milk crates into already-stuffed closets and drawers as fast as humanly possible.
The end of the year is the perfect time to thank your old supplies for their service and then kick them to the curb. Start the decluttering process at least a month before school ends so you don't have to rush the process on the last day.
You could also vow to come in and get organized over the summer—but we all know that's not going to happen.
4. Create a Welcome-Back Box
During the last month of school, fill a shoebox with the things that will be most helpful to you when you return in the fall. Include a list of your computer logins and passwords, pictures of your classroom, a back-to-school letter, an introduction letter to parents, a supply list for students, small classroom supplies, and plans for your back-to-school bulletin board.
Some teachers also use their welcome-back box to store ideas for teaching strategies they'd like to try next year, notes of encouragement, and keepsakes given to them by their current class. Be sure to label your welcome-back box and store it in a place where it's not likely to get moved. Or, if you're switching schools or positions, take it with you. Either way, make sure your welcome-back box is easily accessible and the first thing you open when school starts in the fall.
Further Reading: 3 Ways to Score Discounted Summer Travel for Teachers
Wrapping up the school year is an exciting, if harried, time. If you start the process early, you'll feel more organized, prepared, and able to start the next school year—and fully enjoy your well-deserved summer vacation.