Planning for the Summer Months
Although our university just had Spring Break last month, many of us (educators) are already starting to talk about our plans for the summer. With a 9-month position, how do you plan your summer to balance prep work and personal time?
Dear Summer Planner,
What a fantastic question! We don’t blame you for already thinking ahead to your summer plans. Given that much of our academic work is compressed into a 9-month timeline, we agree that thinking a “semester ahead” can help us plan for productive and restorative summers. The following ideas might help you organize your plans for the summer.
Relax and Restore (Self-Care)
You’ve been teaching during an on-going pandemic where student mental health issues are substantial, you might be juggling increased family/personal demands, and you’ve been asked to take on more responsibilities as an ECP. We wanted to start this column with an essential recommendation for the summer – Take Care of Yourself.
- · Some research suggests that early career faculty might be at a higher risk for burnout when compared with middle and late career faculty (Blix et al., 1994; Gonzalez & Bernard, 2006). Consequently, it seems imperative that we (ECPs) check-in on our own well-being and the well-being of our ECP colleagues. There are a number of articles and books containing self-care tips. However, here are some of our favorite (and often forgotten) suggestions:
· Schedule and guard your self-care time during the summer. This is your opportunity to decompress and reconnect with your interests or hobbies. If you are asked to serve on a student thesis or service committee over the summer, ask yourself: Does this opportunity align with my professional goals? Does this opportunity impede on my self-care time?
· Reconnect with your family and friends. Does anyone else feel like they’ve lost touch with family or friends during the pandemic? Reschedule those monthly “lunch dates'' with a friend or send a quick social media message to a family member.
· Take care of your physical needs. You should catch-up on sleep, engage in nutritious meal planning, and/or start a new exercise routine in the warm weather. Summer schedules often allow for more flexibility in starting or stopping our healthy/unhealthy habits.
Like many of us, you likely have an overflowing desktop folder with innovative teaching activities and course ideas that you have not yet been able to implement. If you don’t already have one of these folders, consider checking out some of the recent resources from STP:
· Teaching Tips: A Compendium of Conference Presentations on Teaching (2020-2021)
· Teaching Psychology Online
· Psychological Myths, Mistruths, and Misconceptions
· E-xcellence in Teaching essays
· APA’s Introductory Psychology Initiative
The summer gives us ample time to revise and revamp our regular courses. For example, I (Christina) am really excited to be overhauling my Introductory Psychology course based on some of the new Introductory Psychology Initiative recommendations. If you have one of these folders, schedule some of your summertime to re-introduce yourself to the fun course ideas that you’ve gathered.
Catch up on Research
Do you also have a folder of research that you’ve been intending to read through? You might allocate some of your summertime for a review of recent research publications. If you have a stack of unread Teaching of Psychology or Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology publications, take a few days to indulge in contemporary research that can inform your teaching.
Are you hoping to contribute to the research in our field? Or perhaps you have a new teaching idea that hasn’t yet been represented in the current research? Some of your summer schedule might include preparation of a new SoTL study for implementation in the Fall. I (Christina) often find that the summer gives me enough time to dig into some of the prior literature on a topic, brainstorm a new SoTL study, and then prepare my IRB materials for a Fall submission. This allows me to conduct my research in the early Fall or prepare for a Spring semester data collection period.
Plan for Academic Year Service
Some of the best advice that I (Christina) ever received about service was: Choose service commitments that you are excited about. To effectively use this advice, I often need to take inventory of my current commitments to assess whether these activities still align with my professional goals. I also make a list of potential service positions for the upcoming academic year, ensuring that I don’t “miss out” on an upcoming call for a rare editorial position, APA committee, or STP committee position. Your summer schedule may give you time to start thinking ahead for these service roles.
Many of us look forward to our summer off-season as a time to self-reflect, catch-up, and take a much needed breath after a busy semester. We strongly encourage you to take care of yourself (first) before you consider tackling some of your neglected academic to-do lists. Once you’re feeling refreshed, you can start preparing for the next academic year.
Ask an ECP! Submit a question for a future column.
Your STP Early Career Psychologists Committee
Courtney Gosnell, Ph.D.
Albee Mendoza, Ph.D.
Janet Peters, Ph.D.
Ciara Kidder, Ph.D.
Christina Shane-Simpson, M.S.W., Ph.D.