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Three Strategies for Every Educator's Summer "Vacation"

Wednesday, June 01, 2016 by Brian Collier, Ph.D.

Summer Tips for Educators Brian Collier

My friends often ask me what I will do now that it’s summer and I’m on “vacation” from teaching for several months. The truth is that summer never seems like much of a vacation, but rather a time to do different kinds of work for my students. This is hard to share with friends who work a 9-5 job. They often misunderstand the work of being a teacher since much of the work of being a teacher is hidden from the students’ (and parents’) eyes.

In the fall, I wrote about Three Ways Teachers can Strengthen Their Content Area Expertise, and all of those strategies still apply for the summer months. However, if I could suggest three other things for teachers to do in the summer, I’d recommend three R’s: rest, re-engage and read.


Like everyone else, teachers need time to rest. When we are properly rested we have more ideas and more ways to innovate. Summer is a great time to do some of the things you enjoy and discover things in the world, in popular culture, and in everyday occurrences that you can turn into lesson ideas down the road.

Re-Engage Your Lesson Plans 

A mentor of mine once suggested that if you re-do approximately one-third of your lesson plans every year, your courses will always be new. I’ve tried to stick to this principle in my planning and it’s worked out well. Make an appointment with yourself every day or every other day during the summer to work on your plans. This is a great way to help you to re-engage with the subject matter you love. Summer is also a good time to find additional resources: a new graphic organizer, video clip, or a different example, and add it into your plans that are already working or that need tweaking. You might also consider adding some differentiation into your plans for those learners who need additional help or a more challenging example. Additionally, you might think about what technology you can add (and if it is of high value) to help make a point or to get to some critical thinking or application of a concept.


This is an important time of year to engage with concepts that spark your interest. These concepts will help you to have more thoughtful ways to engage with your subject area and give you things to bring back to your students. Like many people around the world, I’m hungrily engaged in the thoughts of Ta-Nehisi Coates. (You can read more on that at the NY Times) I also just got an ND Alum’s new book, California Through Native Eyes: Reclaiming History from the University of Washington Press. I’m also —like every good Social Studies teacher engaged in thinking about lesson plans and ideas—listening to music from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, “Hamilton.” (If you’ve not heard this work you must listen to it!) Think about things that interest you, that will interest your students, that will sharpen your saw for your content area or for your school context.

Great teachers are always thinking about their students and ways to further engage them. Spend this summer doing the things you love and know that those passions will flow right back into your classroom, igniting a spark for so many children in the months and years to come. This is the work that will make your school year and your classroom truly special.

To learn more about Brian visit www.brianscollier.com or write him at 

About the Author

Brian Collier, Ph.D.

Brian Collier, Ph.D.

Brian S Collier is currently Director of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network (AICSN) and Faculty for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) at the University of Notre Dame. Prior to coming to work for ACE Collier was an Assistant Professor of History at Northern Arizona University. Collier's academic work focuses on Native Education, an interest that started when he was a teacher and dorm parent at St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Collier currently has a manuscript on Catholic Native education under review at the University of Nebraska Press. Collier has published on American Indian Running (including a piece about Steve Gachupin and Jemez Pueblo), Native people at Notre Dame, American history, and the Harlem Globetrotters. He is also a founding member and long-time former chair of the Committee on Teaching and Public Education for the Western History Association

Collier holds degrees from Loyola University Chicago (B.A. History with an emphasis in Women's studies, Philosophy, and Theology), Colorado State University (M.A. History with an emphasis in literature of the American West and Environmental History), and Arizona State University (Ph.D. with an emphasis in American Indian History, the American West, Gender History, and Education). Collier regularly teaches undergraduate courses on the History of Education in America, American Indian History, American Indian Education, and a new course entitled: God, Country, and Notre Dame - The Story of America told through one Catholic University. Collier teaches graduate courses with the Alliance for Catholic Education that include: Curriculum and Instruction, Active Teaching Methods, Assessment, Educational Psychology, and a History of Education course that is inclusive of race, class, and gender dynamics in schools.