Delaware Writing Project

Get the Most Out of Your Summer Vacation: Teacher Edition

By Emma Heck

Does anyone else set too many goals for summer vacation? I find that every summer I tell myself, “I’m going to read every new book, play all of the video games I haven’t gotten around to, catch up with old friends, AND plan all of my units for the school year.” Now it’s mid-July, and I’ve managed to complete a total of zero of the things I wanted to do.

If you too, are an ambitious teacher who overplans for his or her summer vacation, let’s start getting SMART about our summer vacation goals. Let’s face it, summer vacation is the one time of year we get to be selfish.


What the heck are SMART Goals?

Image result for free clipart smart goal

S is for specific

Ask yourself what specific things you want or need to accomplish this summer. When I really think about the goals I made for myself, “reading lots of books and playing games and stuff” are far from specific. My first step in making sure my goals actually going to get done, is figuring out what specifically I want to do. For me, the goal on my list that will feed my soul, AND make me  feel like I’m being a good English teacher, is to read new books. I’ve made my summer goal specific by deciding that this summer I will read a minimum of one new, young adult book. I’m only choosing one book so that I am still being specific (key word) with my goals. To go on and make my goal even more specific, I picked a book called A Monster Calls from Cult of Pedagogy’s list of YA books recommendations. This book list is AWESOME, because it provides teachers with a comprehensive list of relevant books so that we don’t have to do too much searching.

M is for measurable

How will you know you’ve accomplished your goals? My goal can be measured by my reading progress; once I finish my book I’ve met my goal. Some goals might be more difficult to measure. Take the goal, “I want to become a better writing teacher.” How do you know when you’re a better writing teacher? I would suggest setting a “sub-goal” to make it easier to measure broad or abstract goals. For example, the sub-goal for becoming a better writing teacher could be just learning one new strategy to try out this school year. If you are having trouble measuring your goal, you might need to make your summer goals more specific.

A is for attainable

Can you actually achieve your goal? For me, I’ve been blessed with the ability to read so I think I’ll be able to achieve my goal. However, I might need to pick another book to read if I can’t find A Monster Calls at my library. My goal is flexible, so it won’t be the end of the world if I end up reading another book off of that YA book list. Really think about the problems you might face in getting done what you want to do this summer. Do you have a summer vacation full of side jobs and family meet ups? Life things can sometimes affect the attainability of a goal, so be conscious of that when you’re planning for that productive summer you’ve been waiting for.

R is for relevant

Don’t spend your summer vacation doing things you think you “should” be doing. There are plenty of things that I feel like I should do (like lesson planning for the year), but those aren’t usually the things I genuinely want to do. The best piece of advice I got during student teaching is to be selfish with your summers. Lesson planning can wait until the weeks before school starts, so set goals that excite you!

T is for time-bound

When do you want to accomplish your goal? For me, I don’t feel pressure to complete my goal within the week. As long as a finish one book before the summer is over and my school year begins, I will feel accomplished.


Here’s to more summer vacations of productive, goal-setting in order to recharge before the craziness of the school year begins.




About the Author

Emma Heck is a first-year teacher and recent graduate from the University of Delaware, where she received a B.A. in English Education. She will begin her teaching career as a 8th grade English teacher at Odyssey Charter School, and is excited to see what kinds of things she will learn during her first year teaching. Ms. Heck’s goal for her first year is to improve her writing instruction, and she is hoping that the Delaware Writing Project will give her the tools to do so.

Ms. Heck is especially passionate about working with English Language Learners, and hopes to pursue a Master’s Degree in teaching English as a second language (TESOL). Emma eventually wants to become a Fulbright ETA, but wants to gain experience and confidence as a teacher before relocating to teach in another country.

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