How to Bring Summer Inspiration into the School Year

Summer is a time for teachers to recharge and refresh from all the hectic parts of the school year. So much happens from September to June that it feels like this is the first chance most of us have to breathe and slow down. But in between attending to all those little errands overlooked during the school year (July might be the official month for teacher dentist and doctor appointments) and some well-deserved relaxation, there is a chance to look at your own practice, your curriculum, and your projects to bring some summer energy into the school year!

Here are some steps and tips to carry the summer into the fall!

school on a late summer day

Document!

It goes without saying an art teacher and their sketchbook get to reestablish their relationship over the summer months. Now is the perfect time to document all those ideas and activities that will inspire your work heading into the next school year.

Teachers seem adverse to regular assignments and exercises during the summer months, but having a creative routine is useful. And having some way to make yourself accountable to the routine is even more important. Set a goal to create a drawing a day, or to take a class in an unfamiliar medium. Whatever you end up doing, make it a habit to write down and reflect on your artmaking.

person journaling

Some thoughts to consider when journaling:

  • What was the most enjoyable part of the experience?
  • What was the most challenging part of the experience?
  • What might I have done differently?
  • How could I apply this in the classroom?

We make our students reflect on their work all the time. Is it too much to expect that we should do the same? If it’s hard for you to hold yourself to these goals during the break, find a buddy to help keep you to it. Maybe there’s another teacher at your school who could benefit from the same cycle. Make it fun for each other by setting rewards and goals to keep both of you on track. Or do it with a group of teachers! Figure out whatever it is you need to do to keep yourself practicing this simple step. You’ll be glad you did in the fall!

Make Connections!

The summer is the ideal time to reconnect with museums. It’s also a great opportunity to branch out and look at some other spaces and places for inspiration.

I’ve written before about ways to connect with your community, and this is the perfect time to do so. But make sure you look beyond the expected and check out some alternative resources. A visit to your favorite art museum could be just what you need, but poking around a natural history museum or science center and seeing how they’ve put exhibits together from a design standpoint might kickstart a new project. The local library is also a great space to visit, and not just for the books.

library shelves

Some schools suggest a summer read for their teachers to inspire continual thinking and work around professional development. And most teachers I know also end up picking up a book or two to help relax during break. This is a good opportunity to look for some inspiration in either the paper or tablet format of books and media. Or if books aren’t your speed, maybe you can work this into your summer Netflix binge-watching. One of my favorites on Netflix is Abstract: The Art of Design. It’s a great documentary series focusing on various media and artists and is just the right fit for art teachers to digest (and maybe even use in the classroom!)

Make!

The time to make some art is now! We’re ready to actually create all that work we’ve been mulling over and over in our brains. I talked about spending some time creating artwork earlier, but rather than just focusing on your own practice, summer is the perfect time to dive into some other uncharted territories. Always wanted to learn Photoshop? Curious about silk screen printing? Never really mastered working with a ceramics wheel? Now is as good a time as any to dig in. And, if you have a hard time fitting learning like this in, we have you covered with our Studio Courses and PRO Library (just click on the Media/Techniques topic).

Ray taking a photo

If you’re not looking to focus on making art, it’s also a good time to consider making progress on curriculum and teaching! Museums and arts organizations typically have full slates of professional development programs and teacher workshops. New strategies and ways of thinking about teaching are always being developed. Maybe you even want to check out an online conference happening during the summer months.

Summer won’t last forever, but there are ways to capitalize on the enthusiasm and rejuvenation well into the school year. Make not just art, but your own teaching practice into something stronger and more complete and see what your new school year can become!

How do you spend the summer months?

What lessons and ideas do you hope to carry into the school year?

Raymond Yang

Ray Yang is a Middle and Upper School Art Teacher and Teaching Artist in Seattle, WA. He is a passionate advocate for social justice and believes the arts can change the world.

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