Your Optimal Off-Season

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Larry FItzgerald goes to Rwanda.  Kevin Durant scuba dives.  Serena Williams designs clothes. Vernon Davis runs an art gallery.  Michael Phelps races horses.  Chris Paul bowls. Cristiano Ronaldo goes fishing.





Everybody needs an off-season. But if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re so driven to do everything at optimal efficiency that you cringe at the thought of wasting one second of your own off-season.  Join the club.

I feel like every day I must be productive. After all, I spend 180 days a year changing lives and, ya know, basically killing it at all things classroom. These 3 months better be pretty darn earth shattering too!

Or not.

At least not in the same way.  An educator’s off-season should be their own. You craft your summer with its own goals and expectations. Read Harry Potter or The Washington Post or endless Facebook updates. IT’S YOUR SUMMER!

But what I would hate for you to do is return to school unrested, unfulfilled, and unhappy.

Let’s look to athletes for how to have the optimal off-seasons. The editors at put together these 5 mistakes athletes make during their off-season. Our own teaching take-aways have been added.

Mistake 1: Focusing more on training than athleticism

They advise athletes to save “skills” for later. Off-season is for focusing on the foundation. They emphasize fundamentals and cross-training.

You have no students. Summer is not the ideal time for detailed lesson planning. Get back to your roots. What foundational aspects of your job need fine tuning?  What big concepts (going gradeless, classroom management, reading workshop format, etc.) need your focus?

I find great comfort in the details. Two summers ago I spent time each day painstakingly creating slides and handouts for the six weeks I was soon to be on maternity leave. I honestly felt such joy in knowing every detail was taken care of. NONE OF THAT TIME MADE ME A BETTER TEACHER! Where is your focus?

Mistake 2: Not resting enough between exercises

Athletes can do more harm than good if they don’t take sufficient breaks between their exercises. The editors caution, “Don’t do the next set or exercise until you can promise yourself that you will give it 100% effort.”

Enough said, right? Some of us are so eager to have all of this “free time” that we overschedule our summer. What good is a week of professional development if you don’t give yourself the week after to reflect? Maybe your season was so taxing that you need the entire summer to shut down Teacher Brain in order to give the next school year your full 100%. Don’t deny yourself what you need. You will have no one to thank or blame other than yourself.

Mistake 3: Sacrificing quality for quantity

“Benching 205 pounds with perfect form is much better than benching 225 with your back in the air, the bar crooked or your spotter lifting the bar off your neck.”

You guys. We tell our students this every day. Time to take our own advice. No one is impressed by how many podcasts you listened to, books you read, apps you added, or professional developments you attended! No one! (Not even your principal.) What’s impressive is when you let any learning experience change what you do or how you do it.  Reading one teacher book that makes you a better teacher far outweighs an entire library of books that never make it farther than a dusty bookshelf and, “Oh, yeah, I read that this summer. Great book!” In our line of work, quality trumps quantity every time.

Mistake 4: Paying less attention to recovery than to training

Training breaks down muscle and recovering builds it back up. What a perfect analogy for the purpose of our off-season. We train so hard all year. We run, jump, learn, adjust, love, with our whole hearts and minds.  Teachers, the muscle is broken. Give it some time to rebuild. Your training and recovery must align: the tougher the year it was, the more self-care you need.

Mistake 5: “Working out” instead of training

Working out is what you want to do. Training is what you need to do.  Think about this word NEED before you completely dismiss this final tip. Seriously. What do you need to do? No commentary from me here. Just a question that should begin and end your day. Given all the things I want to do, feel pressured to do, have always done before, what do I NEED to do? It’s your off-season. Do what you need to do. Your students and colleagues are counting on you to.

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