It is no secret that teachers get an ample amount of vacation time. On the other hand, most of us never stop working during the school year. We are always planning, grading, answering emails, and if time permits, reflecting on practice. We address daily student questions and parent concerns. For most of us “connected educators”, the work-home life line is practically non-existent.
Therefore, our vacation time is a chance to unwind and to relax. To think and reflect. Here are my 15 recommended ways to spend Winter Vacation 2014.
1. Enable Auto-Respond for your emails: Most email programs offer this service, here are the instructions for Gmail. With Gmail, you can set the start date, end date, subject line, message, and who you send the message to. You could set it to those in your GAFE school district, people in your contacts or everyone. Here was my message:
Thank you so much for contacting me but I am out of work right now on vacation. I will return to work on January 5th, 2015. I will not be checking my email during this time but if you need immediate assistance, the school is still open and can respond to your concerns. Here is the phone number: (***) ***-****
2. Turn off Notifications: A lot of our online learning management systems have apps and settings for notifications. I use Schoology and so I get updates continuously! I receive notifications for assignments submitted, post updates, post replies, and messages. During the school year, I feel like my phone notifications go off non-stop. Luckily, Schoology has an in-app notification option for my phone. I turn off the notifications locally, but if you want to do it through the Schoology website, here are the instructions.
3. Read: What is this “reading for pleasure”? This is a foreign concept to me because during the school year all I get to read are student essays or discussion posts. Take this time over winter break to catch up on some of your reading material; books, articles, blog posts. Whatever is your pleasure, just take some time away from work and enjoy your time for guilty free reading. I have recently taken to reading on either my tablet or my kindle. Paperless is always good but it also syncs between devices so I can pick up where I left off no matter where I am. A Kindle would be a perfect last-minute gift for someone. Amazon current has a Kindle (Touchscreen, WiFi) for under $100! [Affiliate link]
If you do read electronically, I use a free service called BookBub. It sends me an email letting me know the daily deals for eBooks. Check it out!
4. Read/Listen: My young son does not always allow me to read peacefully but I started using Audible a couple of months ago and I love it! It is an Amazon.com audio book service that has a pretty good selection. You can try it free for a month! After that, Audible allows you to download and permanently keep 1 audiobook a month. I plan on using some of my Christmas gift money to buy a couple of credits so I can grab a book when I want. If I am washing dishes, working outside, or doing errands, there is a pretty good chance I am listening to an audiobook on Audible!
5. Listen: Catch up on your podcasts. I use the app BeyondPod to track all of my podcast feeds and will catch up on them when I am doing house chores or driving for errands. It is a nice distraction from the endless lines and horrible holiday traffic. One of my favorites is Michael Hyatt’s This Is Your Life. He hosts an awesome podcast on productivity and leadership.
6. Watch: I am usually too busy to watch a lot of TV but when I have a little downtime at night, I will often use Netflix to catch up on whatever TV series I am now into. Aside: I am working my way through season 2 of Mad Men and it is awesome!
7. Cook: In the evening, I have to rush around to finish the day’s chores. Cooking is usually more of a nuisance than a pleasure. Vacation allows us the time to plan out our favorite meal. To take the time to do it right and to actually enjoy the meal without having to think about what needs to be done for work tomorrow.
Celebrate Home and Health:
8. Get outside: Like many professionals, we are going to spend our entire career inside. I plan on spending some of this vacation outside. There are obvious health benefits but the winter offers many opportunities for those in cooler climates but also more pleasurable temperatures for those in warmer places.
9. Enjoy the down time: Most of our teacher lives are wrapped up with schedules. Enjoy that there are no daily schedules other than what you make it to be. Sure there are everyday needs but take a minute and be aware of your life. We only get one shot at this life and too much time is spent planning the next meeting, lesson, activity. Vacation gives us the time to reflect on where we are in our lives.
10. Enjoy your home time: I have a family that I feel I never get to see during the school year. I love passing the time with my wife and child during vacations. It does not matter if that means just spending some time for yourself or being with friends and family. Take the time to reconnect with the people that matter the most to you.
11. Lay off the Caffeine: It is a clear that I have a caffeine addiction. If I do not drink 4 cups of coffee a day, I don’t drink 1. One of my students even got me a bag of coffee as a Christmas gift. I plan on laying off the coffee to give my body a break. The negative health effects of too much coffee are well documented. Or at the very least, I will switch to lattes :).
12. Test out apps! We are are techie teachers after all, right? For a more detailed list, the American Library Association came out with their list of best apps for 2014.
13. Plan lessons: Very rarely do we get the time to reflect and long term plan out our lessons. Sometimes I feel like my lesson is not finalized until the day I have to teach it. This vacation time allows us the chance to plan our lessons. At the very least we can plan a couple of classes and the best of us can plan out until the next vacation! For this task, I use a combination of my LMS, Schoology, and my note taking app, Evernote. I will plan out individual lessons in Evernote and then compile the best of them into my folders on Schoology. For more on my course organization, check out my screencast.
14. Plan your calendar: Setup important dates with your Calendar. I use Google Calendar because it syncs with everything! I will include the class topic for each day because I can drag/drop to move things around quickly in case of a snow day.
15. Make ScreenCasts: Making these during the school year is an activity I have little time for but winter vacation is a perfect time for me to catch up. If you want to spend some time prepping screencasts for your class, I just started using ScreenCast-O-Matic. It is a simple tool that gets the job done. I plan on using some vacation time to prep some instructional videos to help students more easily navigate my teched up classroom.
Question: Am I forgetting something that teachers should be doing during vacation?