Updated Post: First off, I apologize for encouraging you to take a break from the present moment to contemplate your future summer vacation, not very Zen of me. You might also think I am being cruel for bringing up summer while still in the heart of winter, but I assure you I have only your best interests in mind in doing so.
Although I am not currently in the classroom I still fondly remember most of my summer vacations. I also have vivid and painful memories of vacations coming to an end and having no idea where all the time went. Few things are worse than a wasted summer vacation!
Sure it’s good to forgo schedules, unplug the clock, and relax a little. However, this approach can lead to misspent time, waisted opportunities and aspirations never realized. It is a horrible feeling to realize too late that you could have done so much more with the time you had. What can possibly make those feelings even worse? Having your students eagerly ask you at the start of the year “what did you do all summer?” Don’t worry, this blog has you covered! Read on if you want to have responses way cooler than “my summer was relaxing, thank you.” Ideas about art, wilderness survival, yoga, running, biking and more await you.
For the record, everything mentioned in this blog has the possibility of being paid for by your school and even potentially discounted by the various service providers of these soon to mentioned opportunities. If you can create a compelling proposal about how a class or training can improve your teaching and/or your students learning, there is a reasonable chance of at least getting part of your experience paid for. The worst-case scenario is that you pay for it all yourself, but at least you will feel good about having an experience that you can share with your students throughout the year and one that can inspire them to lead a full life. At the very least, your students will think you are pretty cool because you did something unique with your time and want to share it with them! Ok, so lets start with one of the least physically demanding ideas in this blog, go to the museum!
The Art of Summer
I know going to the museum for inspiration is not a new idea, but did you know most museums offer excellent learning programs for teachers? I have only included a few here and I encourage you to investigate what your local museums have to offer. I live just outside of NYC and never knew about the K-12 teacher learning programs at the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. To learn more click here. For those with an interest in integrating Modern Art into their teaching curriculum check out the MoMA. Similar programs are offered at the Smithsonian Institution and at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. For those who want more of an immersion in the Fine Arts and want to turn training into a vacation go to Colorado and visit the Anderson Ranch. Maybe you are interested in the Waldorf approach to teaching the creative arts? You can take classes at Adelphi University or find other programs here. To help make your point for why your school should pay for your art training reference this, this, and this. Ok, maybe you are looking for something a bit more adventurous? How about learning to survive in the wild!
The Art of Survival
I have had the great pleasure of teaching outdoor living and survival skills for many years, in numerous settings, and to a broad spectrum of ages. Without a doubt, learning to make fire without modern tools is a real crowd pleaser. I have seen boys and girls become hyper-focused rubbing sticks together, trying to coax an ember and a flame from tree branches. I have also witnessed grown men and women forsake all distractions, be it physical or environmental, in order to achieve this primal goal. In short, wilderness survival is cool and universal in appeal! You also have a pretty good chance of convincing your administrator to send you away (at their expense) to acquire these life-sustaining skills.
How? I know a high school physics teacher who uses friction fire tools and techniques to demonstrate key concepts and principles. Check this link out from MythBusters when preparing your case. There is also a very clear connection between wilderness survival, biology, environmental science, anthropology, mathematics and other core subject matter. There is also a growing body of research demonstrating the importance of fostering a connection with the natural world to our health and happiness. Show your principal this article from Richard Louv and the other great resources from the Children & Nature Network to further your case.
Most importantly, your students will never look at you the same way if you can teach them how to make fire with sticks and a structurally sound shelter from the debris on the school grounds. Sounds pretty awesome? Even if you can’t convince your school to flip the bill, it is still a worthwhile opportunity. Check out the following programs found across the country that offer top-notch training and experiences: Nantahala Outdoor Center , Wilderness Awareness School , the Tracker School , the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, and Cody Lundin’s Aboriginal Living Skills School.
The Art of Yoga
Maybe roughing it in the great outdoors is not your thing. Perhaps your goals for the summer are to become more flexible, mindful, and healthy. Sounds like you might be into yoga! Did you know that there is a national movement trying to bring yoga into schools? Click here, here, here and here to learn more and to help make your case for why your school should pay for your retreat! Now it might be difficult to get a retreat in Spain or some other exotic location paid for, but it can’t hurt to look here for inspiration. If you are really good at making a connection between yoga, ancient history, art, science, and health, maybe you can make your way to Paros, Greece. To help you further on your yoga retreat research check out the following sites: Yoga Finder, Retreat Place, and USA Today Travel. Are you feeling more enlightened already just thinking about the possibilities?
The Art of Getting Fit and Having Fun
Maybe you need something more than just yoga in your life? Perhaps you can take a little yoga, but really feel the need to move, run, climb, and shake things up! We got you covered. For a perfect blend of yoga, fitness and outdoor adventure check out Kripalu in beautiful Massachusetts. Are you a runner or an aspiring runner? Do you like teaching your students about running? Why not make it the focus of your summer retreat. Check out the Run S.M.A.R.T Project and Trail Runner Magazine for some ideas.
Do you prefer spending your outdoor time on two wheels? You can learn how to tackle trails and rough terrain here. For more biking options and other great skills programs you can visit REI. Do you teach Physical Education or like to take your students outdoors for games and fitness activities? Why not enhance your resume and skill set and become a certified MovNat trainer? What’s MovNat? Click here to find out. For more MoveNat inspiration, check out this YouTube video.
Too hard-core for you? No problem! What about learning outdoor skills and spending time hiking in New England? Sounds good? Check out the Appalachian Mountain Club and their numerous offerings for the summer and beyond. Since a lot of schools have cut their physical education programs you might need to show them why it is so important. This info-graphic might help.
That last category might be a tougher sell when pitching your “pay for my retreat please” number, but you never know! Just remember to connect what you teach to your request. Show relevance; demonstrate how the students, faculty, school and you will benefit from the experience. If you end up paying for it yourself, you probably won’t regret it. In fact, as long as you feel good, learned something, and are rejuvenated, it is all worth it! Don’t forget to bring back some inspiring stories and lessons to motivate and excite your students!
Good luck planning your summer adventure and thanks for reading and sharing. We would love to know how you plan to relax, rejuvenate, and get fit over the summer and what you think about our suggestions. Please comment on the blog and let us know what you think.