How to Use the Summer Break
to Recharge and Prepare for a Successful School Year
By Peter J. Perry, D.M.A.
It’s SUMMER! The time both students and teachers look forward to all school year long. Summer, the supposed reason some believe we all chose the teaching profession (that, and of course, the huge salaries). No matter how we look at it, however, the summer vacation is a unique aspect of our profession. It can also prove to be a strategic and valuable tool for recharging the battery and planning for the following school year.
I have taught at the same school and in the same position for almost twenty years. While I have been fortunate that most of my years have been good to great, I would be remiss not to consider some of the tougher ones—plagued with issues both within and beyond my control, choices I made that were not the right ones, and practices and policies that did not fit my students.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
In looking more deeply into these years, one aspect struck me—the correlation of how I spent my summer and the relative success of that year. In talking to colleagues, I found a similar consensus. More importantly, the most successful teachers balanced their summers with both thoughtful reflection and planning as well as good old-fashioned summer fun.
How do you create a “balanced” summer? I have found that using a loose construct I have dubbed “The 3 R’s of Summer” helped me organize my time and thoughts, recharge my battery, and both reinvigorate and excite me for the start of the new school year. We know the 3 R’s for school (reading, writing, and ’rithmetic). The 3 R’s of Summer outline three foci for managing the summer: Reflect, Rejuvenate, and Recalibrate. I recommend modifying these to your individual needs.
Observing and talking to successful teachers, I noticed that they continuously revaluate, assess, and adapt their teaching. This keeps things fresh, positive, and prevents burn out. It also maintains teaching as an evolving process that allows for change in both the students and the teacher.
Using the summer to reflect upon the previous year is an important for gathering thoughts about the state of your program and for focusing on developing solutions to problems and enhancing what already works. I use the this End of Year Assessment Form to organize data about what went well, needs improvement, as well as to record assessment scores, new initiatives, and music that was programmed. The form provides a structured point of departure for thought and provides a direction to follow in researching and evaluating new methods, and setting goals for the new year.
One of the best and most obvious uses of the summer is to rejuvenate mentally, physically, and professionally. Additionally, this time can be used to prepare for the demands of the upcoming year.
Finding a balance is the key. Time to get away from the job—through vacations, day trips, and the pursuit of hobbies—is an important part of maintaining good mental health. Exercise and other physical pursuits that get the blood circulating are both beneficial to the body as well as the mind.
I also like to use the summer to rejuvenate myself musically. I recommend focusing on music that is relevant and valid to you personally as well as that which inspires you both mentally and creatively. This helps refresh and prepare you for digging deeper into the performance aspects of music instruction. Performing music of various types, attending fine performances, listening to recordings that inspire you, and reading fine texts about music and performance all support this pursuit. While linked to our profession, the different environment and context these provide can help further motivate and enhance our musical and professional prerogatives.
Having rejuvenated yourself and reflected upon the important aspects of the previous year, I recommend using this data and refreshed state of mind to retool what you are doing instructionally and create accessible goals to help focus your teaching objectives for the new school year. This will make the approach of a new year less daunting, and provide a concentration of effort that will help build your motivation and enthusiasm.
It is, however, important to be realistic with these goals and changes. Do not try to do too much at once. One or two goals are sufficient (i.e., I will incorporate technology into my performance assessments; I will focus on improving my ensembles rhythmic reading, etc.). These can also be included into Student Learning Objectives and further extend your preparation. Collaborating with other teachers and letting them provide feedback is always helpful.
As stated before, I recommend that you modify these suggestions and tailor them to how you work, and the specific needs of your position and students. Have an enjoyable, musical, and productive summer!
About the Author:
Peter Perry is a lifelong Maryland resident, and has traveled the world teaching and performing music. A NAfME member, he is currently in his nineteenth consecutive year as Instrumental Music Director at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland. Here he conducts the: Chamber Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Band, and Marching Band. These ensembles consistently receive critical acclaim on local, state, and national levels.
Dr. Perry is a strong advocate for music technology usage in the large ensemble. His doctoral dissertation, “The Effect of Flexible-Practice Computer-Assisted Instruction and Cognitive Style on the Development of Music Performance Skills in High School Instrumental Students,” focused on how the practice software, SmartMusic™, and the cognitive styles of field dependence and field independence affect musical performance skill development.
He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Music Education from Shenandoah Conservatory, as well as a Master’s Degree in Music Education-Instrumental Conducting Concentration, and a Bachelor of Science Degree-Instrumental Music Education, both from the University of Maryland. While at the University of Maryland, Dr. Perry was awarded the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts Scholarship in Music.
In 2006, Dr. Perry received a Japan Fulbright fellowship and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program. He is an active guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, lecturer, author, composer, and performer.
Follow Dr. Perry on Twitter: @peterperry101.
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Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, July 8, 2015. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)