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Summer Planning for Theatre Educators

Theatre teacher summer

If the prospect of summer’s “free time” has you overwhelmed thinking about all you want to do and how to get it done, pause right now, take a deep breath, and start with some reflection. You’ve completed another academic year full of curriculum plans, classroom projects, administrative duties, and helping students develop important life skills. These are huge accomplishments, and even if there wasn’t an awards banquet for you this year, you can be your own best supporter and acknowledge the achievement.

While daily routines change during summer vacation, think of your time away from school as a chance to refresh, reset goals, and refocus energy on what matters most. With some thoughtful planning now, and a willingness to hold strong boundaries for those plans, you can slow down enough to make a positive difference in your own life.

One Last Project Before Vacation

Now, before you plunge into your summer to-do list (or head off for that much-deserved vacation!), complete a three-point review of this school year. To get started, grab your calendar and carve out a bit of time so you can focus on what worked and what didn’t.

  1. Go week by week, or month by month, and create a list of highlights of the year. These are the wins—large and small—you or your students achieved.
  2. Then go back through your calendar and list the challenges that cropped up: unexpected complications, problems with a lesson that fell flat, issues you hadn’t expected that stymied students. By acknowledging these hurdles, you can adjust for the issues or change your approach altogether.
  3. Last, review the flow of your lesson plans laid against the natural flow of days. Note stressful times like holidays, flu season, major school events, etc., and where those unchangeable issues caused trouble. By knowing when outside forces conspire against a smooth-running lesson, you’re armed with knowledge to improve your timing.

Do this exercise while the year is still fresh in your mind. You’ll gain valuable data to help you make wise and informed decisions for the coming year, and over time, trends will show themselves and you’ll keep finding ways to make the greatest impact possible in your students’ lives.

6 Ideas to Help You Plan for Summer

Educators, by nature, find great joy helping others hone the skills they to succeed in the world, and it’s easy to forget to go back to the well and fill your own cup with what helps you grow. We encourage you to invest in your own enjoyment, broaden your skill set, and maybe even tackle your to-do list with a refreshed spirit. Let this summer be a mix of rest and learning.

Creating this balance between rejuvenation and stimulation of your mind and imagination shifts your “time off” into a real investment in yourself and your needs. Feeling like your needs are getting met helps you look forward to the coming year from a solid place of strength and inspiration.

Need help making your summer goals a reality? Here are some suggestions:

teacher summer tips

1. Make dates with yourself for rest and rejuvenation (R+R)

Just like you block out time for a dental appointment or to take the car to be repaired, set up appointments with yourself for R+R and keep them. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Go to the pool – even if it’s only for 30 minutes. Stick your feet in the shallow end and listen to the kids screaming and the neighbors chatting. Or dive in and swim laps. The sunshine is good for you (yes, wear sunscreen), and the time away from your electronic devices will seem like total freedom!
  • Practice meditation – this can be a short investment of time – 7 minutes, 30 minutes, or somewhere in between. You don’t need special clothes or equipment. Simply find a comfortable spot to sit and breathe. You can use the words “here/now” as a mantra on your inhale and exhale to give your mind a focal point. Set a timer. Then, each time you notice your mind wandering to what to make for dinner or how to fix the leaky faucet, simply acknowledge: “I’m thinking. I’m going back to following my breathing. Here/now, inhale/exhale.” In the moment, meditation may not seem to be doing anything beneficial. But you’ll find yourself using this breath training when life gets, well, life-y.
  • Tend a garden – your own, a friend’s, or a public plot. Whatever your chosen garden space, it’s the process of planting, watering, and tending that offers rejuvenating connections with nature. That connection helps us slow down and focus on the here and now. Plus, you get flowers or veggies!
  • Sleep an hour later – no explanation needed.
  • Play tourist in your hometown – go to the aquarium, the zoo, the best ice cream shop, that mom-and-pop diner, historical sites, etc. The sites that attract visitors offer enjoyment. Experiencing things other people love broadens our own understanding of humanity.
  • Travel – see new places. You don’t have to go overseas or even out of your state. Drive to somewhere within 60 minutes of your home; a place you’ve never been. Or drive to a nearby city for dinner and a walk down Main Street. Remind yourself how big the world is by seeing new places.

2. Tackle your theatre’s to-do list.

Yes, this idea is a bit like work, but when approached with a spirit of community this activity can build and strengthen your troupe. That’s because shared efforts forge strong bonds.

  • Create summer meet-up days, work parties, projects to earn Thespian points, whatever you can do to offer students a chance to socialize (and work). They’ll see their theatre program with a more critical eye, they’ll get to be with friends, and they’ll help you.
  • Go through props and donate what’s no longer being used.
  • Test tech equipment and repair what needs attention.
  • Re-organize the costume closet—mend, clean, donate, etc.
  • Set realistic timeframes (good boundaries) for these projects so they don’t become endless. Stop when the set time expires.

3. Read play perusals.

A perusal is a full copy of a script that helps producers, troupe directors, teachers, and theatre staff decide if the play or musical is the right fit for their students and audiences. These perusals are not excerpts. They will be labeled “perusal” to confirm the script has not been licensed for production.

By reading perusals you stay on top of what’s new and what’s available. You’ll feel more informed and more satisfied with your final choices when you know what’s out there. Not all companies offer perusals. Here are just a few. Check links for costs and details:

A group of teachers at the Theatre Education Conference

4. See some shows!

Remind yourself why live theatre is worth the time and money. As an audience member, without the responsibility of putting on the show (though you’ll likely watch through a different filter than the average theatregoer), you can marvel at the costumes, lighting, set design, and orchestra.

You may find inspiration in the unlikeliest of stories. So, go watch, and prepare to be delighted. The American Theatre Guild has venues in select cities around the country. Also, check your local theatre scene for summer shows. Some may be outdoors, which is a fun summer experience, too.

5. Learn something new.

The more you know, the more you grow. Make sure you have access to the Educational Theatre Association’s Learning Center. Membership benefits include full access to 300+ lesson plans, K-12 curriculum, click-to-teach online lessons, and so much more. The Learning Center also gives members access to webinars, monologues for students, and a link to DEI & Theatre for Social Justice resources. There are featured courses, resources for new theatre teachers, a manual for technical theatre educators, and information on social and emotional learning. Membership information here.

Neuroplasticity is the medical term for what our brains do when we learn something new. Just like our physical bodies need to exercise to stay strong and flexible, our brain does, too. Being a lifelong learner is one way to help yourself stay fit. Here are some ideas for summer learning:

  • Take a dance class.
  • Learn stage combat.
  • Attend the Theatre Education Conference or other theatre festivals.
  • Try a new-to-you art form (arts-and-crafts on the driveway with your kids, pottery, watercolor, drawing, jewelry making class, etc.).
  • Release your inner playwright! Write something, anything, even if you don’t show another soul. The process of writing is powerful.

6. Join your community theatre or an improv group.

Doing instead of teaching is a dramatically different process. When you’re the teacher you have a lot of responsibilities, a list of items to cover, and you have to manage all the distractions that pop up. By serving in some type of supporting role (that is, not running the community theatre), you get to set aside a lot of responsibilities. You get to focus on one aspect of the production and hone your skills.

As a participant rather than the leader, you may discover learning methods you can take back to your classroom. Or you may have an experience that informs how you do not want to teach. Every interaction is an opportunity to expand your horizons. Plus, you’ll meet like-minded theatre lovers, and we all can use a few more acquaintances who love what we love!

However you spend your time, make the most of it and refresh, reset, and refocus. Enjoy the process and return to the classroom rejuvenated this fall.

Patty Craft is a regular contributor to the Educational Theatre Association.

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