School in the Summer Time

I am a middle school Principal. Have been now for 7 years. Before that I was an Assistant Principal who worked an extended contract (to do the master schedule) during the summer. My friends don’t get it. It’s not their fault, really, it’s not. Every summer, I get the same question every time I am visiting with my non-education friends. “So, what do you DO all summer long?”. Or, “how are you enjoying your summer vacation?”. To be fair (or snarky), these are the same ones who think teachers don’t work past 3:15 or during the summer months.

So, again, it’s not their fault. I patiently explain for the 17th time this summer that I am a 12 month employee. I work year round. We do things like plan for the upcoming year, finish the master schedule, hire new staff, and generally prepare for your students to arrive on the first Tuesday of September. Most of them are amazed when they hear this. Amazed.

But, truth be told, there are some real benefits of the summer months. Certainly, the pace is much slower than screaming through the hallways with your hair on fire (like most school days). The office is quiet, without a gajillion people circulating in and out for the entire day. I can actually sit at my desk and write a blog post (thanks for reading it, by the way). But what else can you do during the summer months? Here are some things I am going to put on my short list.


Everything. This is more than a cleaning of the office (which I also am getting done). I am going to spend some time reorganizing my Twitter followers, making sure they are all on the proper Twitter lists so that my PLN is more efficient and beneficial. I am going to do the same for my Google Drive. I take some time to look through every drawer and paper folder in my office. I throw out and shred what I don’t need and organize what is left.

Have Lunch with Your Mentor

During the school year, we barely have time to scarf down a sandwich in the cafeteria. Take some time while the pace i slower. Get back in touch with your mentor. Go out to lunch. Talk. ask questions. Reflect with him or her on the year that was. This is a great time to talk about your thoughts and plans for the upcoming year and get a different perspective.

Have a Retreat with Your Admin Team

Every year I take my admin team off campus for a focused day of planning. We always go off campus to minimize distractions. I include my School Counseling Coordinator and my Special Education Coordinator as part of the team. We discuss the previous year and do some in depth planning/discussion about the year coming up. I always post the agenda in advance so that people can add to it and prepare for the debates. And we always end in time for some adult beverages at a local establishment (I buy the first round) to celebrate and end on a positive note.

Catch Up on Your Reading

Over The course of the year, I accumulate tons of books, blogs and articles that I swear I am going to get to. Summer time is when I do that. I use Feedly to organize the blogs and websites I follow and spend some time each day looking through them. This summer I also updated my daily newsletters. There are so  many out there, but some of my favorites are, The Robb Review Daily and Education Dive. I spend 10 minutes each day looking for articles that are of interest and ones I can share with my admin team or faculty. I also schedule 30 minutes each day for whatever book I am reading at the time. Right now I am into “Culturize” by Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) and “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle.

Reconnect with Family

In our county, we work four 10 hour days, which means that I have three day weekends. While the 10 hour days can be brutal, the three day weekends more than make up for it. My wife and I try to plan a few day trips, spend some time with my oldest and his fiance, and we always find some time to hang out at our local pool each weekend, reading and chatting with friends. Use the summertime to reconnect and recharge before the hecticness begins in the fall.

Recharge and Refresh

Like most of you, by the time June rolls around I am exhausted. I love them, the students, parents and teachers. But in mid-June, I need a break. I need, no, I won’t survive, without a little downtime. It allows me to rejuvenate myself. It also allows me to reflect on the previous year, see where and what I need to improve, and generally take a deep breath. Make no mistake, I need this time. But by early August, I am bored, and I need them, all of them, back in the building.


I am using this summer to re-establish my exercise routine. To say I had it let it “lapse” is like saying the North Pole is a “little cold”. My goal is to establish the routine, and then stick with it during the school year. I am fortunate that we have a great work out room in our Physical Education department. I plan my week out so that at least three times a week I head down there and get a work out in. it is starting SLOW, but I have set goals for my progress. You can do the same thing with your summer.

Use this summer to establish great routines and prepare for the new school year. Make it a great year!


About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. 2018 Outstanding Virginia Middle School Principal of the Year 2018.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Life lessons, Personal Growth, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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