Hot Fun (and Preparation) in the Summertime!

Hot Fun (and Preparation) in the Summertime!

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp


Thank you to Sly and the Family Stone for the title and movement into this month’s blog!

July is an interesting month in the lives of educators. They may be on summer break, others may be moving back into the building, and some may be taking courses or attending summer conferences in preparation for the upcoming year. No matter what you are doing right now, there will still be more preparation that you do for the fall. Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to connect with educators and therapists at both conferences and in their district sessions. As I spoke with them, I asked what the top five pieces of advice they would suggest for July preparation to other educators. Their answers were very cool and showed the differences that each group had when thinking about the fall.


Top Suggestions:


Special Education Teacher

I’ll begin with the top five suggestions from a veteran Special Education teacher. I was at her district discussing approaches for specific students using assistive technology, along with looking at what they might need for their new students. The first suggestion she gave for her top five in July was to read any book that covers working with our neuro-diverse individuals. She suggested that reading a book like this in July put her into a generalized positive mindset before moving back into the daily grind. One book example she gave was Thinking In Pictures by Temple Grandin. Her second July suggestion was to acquire a class list for her upcoming classroom. She uses that class list to contact her students at the end of the summer with a letter or email to see how they are doing and let them know how excited she is to be working with them. She shared that this technique helps to ease the anxiety around the first day back and, in some cases, gets the students excited about coming to school. Her third July suggestion is to take a trip to the beach (her favorite place to be) or your favorite venue where you spend one day doing nothing but relaxing. For her, she stated this is “the final charge of her battery” before beginning her own routine for the school year. This activity leads into suggestion number four, which is to start mirroring times that you would normally go to bed, eat, and go to sleep during the school year. She uses “school time” for housework or other work to get her mind and body prepared for “work time.” Her final suggestion is to start getting your family into a set schedule, similar to the routine they will be using in the fall. This includes dinner at an appropriate time around practice and meetings. Her children would go screenless and read after dinner to mirror homework time. Her children are now out of college and do not live at home, making evening schedules less tedious as they once were!


Occupational Therapist

During a conference, I had the opportunity to spend time with an Occupational Therapist that I have known for many years. She also works with both teachers and students in after school yoga programs that she runs. Her first July suggestion is similar to our previous teacher because it centers around reading a book. The difference is that she prefers to read something fictional and as far from education as possible. She is a fan of mysteries and always has time for authors like Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, and Margaret Maron. Also similar, her second suggestion is to check-in with upcoming students. She has already designed some summer plans for her returning case load and shared it before summer break began. She uses July as a touchpoint for how the plans are followed and gets a sense of where the students may be when she or he returns for the fall. Her third suggestion is to look at the supplies you needed for the fall, especially supplies that many of us purchase on our own. She likes to have what she needs by the end of July, so that she doesn’t have to worry about shortages closer to the start of the year. Her fourth suggestion is to review one’s diet and exercise routine. The period of time from June into the beginning of July sees her stray from consistent healthy eating and exercise habits. She uses mid-July to transition back into healthier activities. Her final suggestion is to attend a summer conference or institute on a topic in your area. She recently attended a conference on movement in learning and was spending some time thinking about how she could adjust her own activities. She was also putting together some classroom suggestions for her teachers.


Administrator – SPED Director

During another district session, I spent time with an administrator. She was the SPED Director for a smaller district and her suggestions reminded me of my time in administration. Her first piece of advice was for other administrators to make sure that all student information is updated and included in packets for the teachers. She shared that her days had more flexibility in July than any other month, so she spends an hour or two a day ensuring that she has this information to distribute. Her second suggestion was also for administrators to network. She says that she puts in calls to neighboring districts, as well as other SPED Directors she has a good relationship with, to share ideas about what is working and what adjustments can be made. She prioritizes these calls above anything else she is doing in the summer as it gives her valuable insights that she may not have had prior. Her third suggestion is to host sessions for teachers and to bring in experts from different areas. She chuckled as she looked at me and said, “Now you know why you are here!” I will admit that the session I did on assistive technology was great because the teachers were excited to be there and were extremely relaxed as they did not have other pressing classroom matters to distract their attention. I had to laugh when she read me one of the end evaluations which stated, “Dr. Ray was great, and lunch was superb!” Glad I wasn’t rated too far behind lunch! Her fourth suggestion was directed at teachers and therapists. She recommends spending a week away from any thoughts on school and, if possible, to do as little work of any kind. She highlighted activities like family vacations or utilizing the time that a teacher’s children might be at a camp for relaxation. Her final suggestion was for everyone within the buildings to begin looking at the school year as a fresh start. “Bring your happy face and a lot of hope.” She has noticed teachers and therapists return feeling worn down by the world around them, especially over the last few years. She opined, “School can be a sanctuary from the world when we all work together in a positive manner.”


So, there are fifteen ideas around July preparation for the upcoming academic year. If I may be so bold, let me add two more from my own experience. First and foremost, if you are not already doing it, find five minutes every day for “you time.” It might be before everyone wakes up or after everyone goes to bed. Read, meditate, have a cup of tea, do some yoga, or go for a brief run. Whatever activity relaxes and recenters you should be a priority. People I am familiar with know that I have walks every day to revitalize myself. Second, affirm yourself and the commitment you have made to your students! You are making a difference in this world, especially in the world of your students! Know that your efforts are appreciated for without you, the future for our students would not be as bright!


Posted in SH Special Education Today Newsletter