Professional Practice

5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Summer (Ep. 039)

Summer break actually isn’t that far away for a lot of us. So it’s time to start thinking about how to make the most of that precious vacation time. Whatever your goals for the summer months, Cassie has some strategies to help you make the most of them. Listen as she discusses making her summertime list (2:30), who can help push you and keep you accountable for your goals (6:45), and her secrets of time management (11:00). Full episode transcript below.


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All right. You all know that this here podcast is a judgment-free zone, right? And I’m saying that because I’m about to say something and I don’t want all of you to start judging on me, because I have a feeling I’m not the only one sitting in this here boat. The countdown. The final countdown. Have you started it? Are you doing it? For me, I can’t technically wrap my brain around the end of the year because less than ten days before the end of the school year, for me, is our school-wide art show, which I know I’ve talked about quite a bit on this here podcast, so I won’t repeat myself as I normally do. However, that is happening in 15 days. May 15 is my art show. So, on my board, I have the countdown.

But there is also a secret countdown in a much smaller place, a number that’s just for me and that’s the final countdown. So tell me I’m not alone because I have less than 20 days in my final countdown til the end of the year, and it’s this time that I really start thinking about what I’m going to do with all the freedoms of summer. I’m going to share some of my top five tips on how to make the most out of your summer vacation, beyond just relaxing but really thinking about, what do you really want to do with your summer, with your time? What do you want to learn and explore? Let’s talk about it. I’m Cassie Stephens, and this is Everyday Art Room.

One of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world is to sit with a blank sheet of loose leaf paper, and a really sharp pencil with a great big fat eraser and start making lists. I am a list maker. And, after I make the list, I usually promptly lose the list or forget what was written on the list or definitely never take that list to the grocery store, and always come home only to find that I have managed to forget nearly half the things on the list. But, hey, I made the list, so at least I had good intentions, right? And it’s this time of year that I bust out my black and white composition notebook and make my summertime list, a list of all the things that I hope to accomplish or try pursue or do with all of my time in the summer.

Now, I know, some of you might have a summer gig lined up, so bare with me. But even if you do have a side hustle for the summer, you know it’s not going to eat up as much time as your full-time art teacherin’ job, which means you’re going to have plenty of time to really think about what do you want to do with this spare time? Now’s the time to go after those hobbies, learn those new things, open that excess door. So today, I’m going to share with you my top five ways to make the very most of your summer, and it’s going to start with a dream list.

So what I did was, I went and looked through some of my old journals, my old notebooks to find my summertime lists. And I just wanted to share them with you because what I find quite satisfying about my lists are that I’ve actually managed to scratch some of them off. I can actually say, “Yeah. I did that. I accomplished that.” So let me go over some of the things that were on my dream list. And I like to dream … well, this is dreaming big for me. Let me just share it with you.

Several summers ago, learn to sew better was at the top of my summertime list and I did that by just busting out sewing patterns, scouring YouTube for tutorials, and just doing it, just spending time in my sewing room. Another goal the following year was to sew clothing for teaching. So, a lot of the dresses that you see me share on my Instagram and my blog, those are articles of clothing that I poured over during my summer months, just spending time really learning how to make something that would be wearable in my art room.

One thing that I actually thought that when I wrote it down, I thought, I am never going to be able to accomplish this but it just sounds like something I would love to do, is write a book. That’s right. Write a book was actually on one of my summertime to-do lists. It didn’t happen for a good three summers after that, but it did actually happen, and I made it happen, which is pretty amazing.

So dream really big when you’re writing down your list. Why not? What’s going to stop you? At least putting it in writing is just kind of putting it out there to the universe, to say, “Hey, this is something that I’m interested in.” You might not be interested in it come two summers later but it feels really good to just put it down on paper. And it’s actually fun to go back and read, and to think, I really wanted to learn how to make French food, or bake a ginormous cake? These are things I would probably never put on a list and definitely never strive to accomplish, but it would be fun to go and just see where your interests were.

Some other things were to open an Etsy store. I’ve actually had two of those. It’s not that hard. You should totally go for it, if it’s on your list. Sell at an art or craft fair was another one on my list that I managed to be able to scratch off. And, last summer, or was it the summer before, learn to play the ukulele was on my list. That actually took a full year to do and I did it, not very well but I can say that I kind of accomplished it. So my number one tip is to dream really big and write it down. So make a list and do it now. You’ll have so much fun dreaming up all the things you want to accomplish this summer.

My second bit of advice would be to share your list with someone who you think is going to help you stay accountable. I have a really good friend at school that, if I shared my list with this, she would be an epic cheerleader of the list. But, I don’t know that she would necessarily push me. If she asked me about it, and I would say, “I’m not really interested,” she would just be sweet and kind and let it go. Those are not the people that you want to share your list with. You want to share your list with people who will harass, badger, and annoy the living daylights out of you to really push you to kind of pursue those goals because they know you. They know what’s important to you and they want good things to happen for you.

For those two people in my life, number one would be my mom. She’s a big cheerleader but she’s also super annoying. No offense mom, but she would stay on me about that. Anytime I talk to her on the phone, anytime she came to visit she would definitely say, “Hey. So what’s going on with you writing that book?” Or, “What have you done to pursue making a dress about a certain artist?” She would totally continually remind me of it and be extremely excited for me when I actually managed to make it happen. Another person is my husband. I see him on a day-to-day basis whether I like it or not, and he definitely holds me accountable for being a better manager of my time. We’ll get to time management in a moment, but I will tell you this, I am the worst manager of time. And he is the best at catching me at wasting time and reminding me where I should have my time being spent. So, definitely share your list with people who you feel like are going to really hold your feet to the fire.

My third tip is this, your list is probably going to have some big and seemingly unattainable goals on it, and so that for you might be a little bit overwhelming. So breakdown your goals. I always think of it as the phrase, “It’s difficult to eat an elephant but you can do it one bite at a time.” So, if you kind of think of your goal as eating an elephant, doing it one bite at a time, break it down into baby steps.

Let’s say you want to learn how to sew a dress. That can sound really overwhelming if you’ve never even set up a sewing machine. So, start by, number one, setting up a sewing machine. Secondly, just start sewing two pieces of fabric together, then maybe three. Start by piecing fabrics together, like a quilt. Then tip toe into a pattern. Just start by reading it. Definitely watch some YouTube tutorials, if that’s something that you’re interested in pursuing. Start small, go easy on yourself because you’re trying something new, something that you might perceive as being unattainable. It’s not, it’s just a big mountain to climb. You can do it one small step at a time. So definitely break down that goal into kind of bite-sized steps.

Now, number four. Let’s chat about time management. And for that I’m going to tell all of you a little bit of a story. I will never forget the time in second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Cheek, gave me a little markdown on my report card, because there actually, back then, was a section for time management, which seems to me is something they could probably bring back. And I remember I got a low score in time management and she wrote in her very pretty cursive handwriting, “Cassie is a poor manager of time.”

I would say that this is still 100% accurate but what’s crazy comical to me is, that’s one of the questions I get asked about the most. “Cassie, how do you manage to get so much done with your time? You must be really great at time management.” Take that Mrs. Cheek. No, I’m actually the worst. I’m just really good at picking and choosing what I want to do and what I don’t want to do. So, let’s talk about my secret, which I really wouldn’t necessarily recommend but I’m going to share it with you anyway. So here are my time management tips and tricks. I’m going to break it down for you.

Number one. You should probably start consuming mass amounts of coffee, which is what I do all day long. I’ve got a coffee pot in my room. My buddy, like I shared I think a couple of weeks ago, Kira, comes in every morning. She makes a fresh pot. Then about noon, fire that bad boy up again. My art room literally smells like a coffee shop. And I’m not complaining. It’s kind of the best thing ever. So coffee is definitely how I manage to have more time in my day because I can do things much more fast and quickly. I also don’t have cable, so my husband and I, we don’t spend a lot of time in front of the television. We actually don’t have a functioning TV. So, if we watch anything, it’s on our laptops. We’re so epically lame.

I don’t have kids. Not that I recommend you selling off your kids to have more time. Keep them. They’re yours. However, that’s just something that I don’t have. I do have a cat though who was just in here while I was trying to record this podcast and driving me bonkers. So I also do not, here’s something I do not have along with cable is, I do not have a clean house because, like I said, I like to pursue the things that I’m interested in, and tidying a messy house is not something that really gets me excited. That’s my secret. You take that with a big old grain of salt.

Now, I was chatting with my husband about time management and he’s mentioned this to me several times before because he is epic at managing his time. And he shared with me this secret, and he’s kind of suggested that I give this a shot and there’s a 99.9% chance that I won’t. But anyway, I love the thought. So, he said this, if you’re wondering where all of your time is going throughout the day and why, at the end of the day, you don’t have time to pursue things like your creative outlets, start keeping a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour kind of diary of how you spend your time. You got up at 6:00 a.m., you shower and it took you maybe 45 minutes to get ready. Jot that down. You looked at your phone for ten minutes. Write that down. You ate breakfast for such and such a time. You checked emails for this amount of time. You spent XYZ amount of time doing this, that, and the other. Write it down.

It’s kind of, I guess, like keeping a food journal. You never really know how much you’re eating throughout the day until you jot it down and take a look. You never realize how much time you’re wasting, whether that be looking at your phone, or checking those emails, which is another thing I don’t really do very much of. However, if you look at that list, it’s pretty enlightening. My husband said he did it for a month, I cannot even imagine, and he was really surprised to see how much time was kind of slipping through his fingers. It might be interesting for you to give that a shot too, especially if you feel frustrated that you don’t have enough time. Now, during the summer, my problem is I feel like I have epic amounts of time, so I have a tendency to really waste it. So this might be something that I give a shot just to see where is all my time going to.

So, basically, well let me break it down for you to manage time, don’t let the daily stuff become an excuse for you not to pursue your goals. The laundry, the house, mowing the lawn, all of that can wait. But those kind of dreams, what’s on that to-do list, that can’t, because one day it might come where you’re not able to actively pursue all those things that you’re interested in. So now’s the time.

All right, last but not least, out of my top five tips is to just dive in. And when I say this, I’m not saying it just to you, I’m also saying it to me. So I’ve started working on my summer list and there are a couple of things on my list that scare me because I actually don’t know how to make some of those things on my list happen. So, for me, when I’m a little bit fearful of something, like writing a book, or any other of these pursuits that I’m just thinking, I have no idea where to start, I just got to start. I feel like a lot of times the hardest part about making something happen is just the getting started part.

I know we’ve chatted before on this podcast about creativity and motivation, and how I feel like it’s a matter of getting the ball rolling. Something in motion, it stays in motion. If you can just kind of get that giant ball of dreams, we’ll say, rolling, even if it’s just a tiny little bit at a time, as long as it’s moving, you’re working toward your goal. So just dive in. Just do it. And the summer is the best time to make it happen.

I would love to know what some of your summertime goals are and how you plan to pursue them. Thank you so much for letting me share my top five tips with all of you today.

Tim Bogatz: Hello. This is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you, as always, for tuning in to Everyday Art Room. And as Cassie is talking about her summer plans and goals for the summer, it also makes sense to talk about graduate courses. There is so many teachers out there this summer who are looking for PD hours or looking to move over on the pay scale and, if you’re one of those teachers, AOE’s courses are the perfect opportunity to find what you need. Make sure you check out under the courses tab. We offer over twenty online courses, designed to help art teachers at every stage of their professional career.

There are actually two new studio courses that’ll be offered for the first time this summer. One on watercolor and one on sculpture. These studio courses blend classroom strategies with your own personal practice. The courses run for eight weeks and they’re worth three credit hours. The very first sections are running right now starting just a couple of days ago and more sections will be beginning on June 1st, July 1st, and August 1st. So you can check out Studio Watercolor and Studio Sculpture and all of our courses at

Cassie: Alright. Now it’s time to take a little dip into the mailbag. And this first question is an awesome one, and I do believe it deserves its own entire podcast episode. So stay tune for more details, but this one comes from Jessica. She says, “So, I was wondering what kind of projects you do with your students after the art show and before school lets out. I don’t have much time left with my kiddos because I see them every other week, and we are running out of days.” Yeah, it’s the final countdown. So here’s what I usually do. The day after our art show, my room is completely cleared out because for our art show my art room becomes the space in which all the three-dimensional projects are displayed. So all the chairs are removed, all the tables are pushed back for displays, and there’s no way I’m setting my room back up for just one more week of school. After the art show, I’m good to go.

So, what I usually do during those last, usually it’s one, maybe two art classes with my students is, I usually offer them up my three choice of centers. So here’s what that looks like in my room. I will have an origami area. My kids love origami. I will have my how to draw books available for them. I’ll usually play it quietly or sometimes I’ll even play it without the sound because they don’t need the sound, Art Hub for Kids on YouTube. It’s fabulous. And I like to play that without the sound so it’s not distracting for the kids who aren’t following along. So I’ll have that going, and copy paper usually. Not my great art paper, but copy paper for my students to draw on.

I’ve got my blocks area, fashion plates, which, if you don’t know what fashion plates are, if you didn’t play with them as a kid, you were deprived of childhood, let me tell you, they are awesome. You can score some also super hero fashion plates, or super hero plates on Amazon. So those are just the kind of things that I do on those last days of school. Also, don’t feel bad about putting some of those kids who love to clean in charge of cleaning out your markers or testing your markers, testing out your sharpies, wiping down cabinets. There’s always those handful of kids that love doing those things. Another thing we also do is, we usually bust out the shaving cream and we have a great big cable cleaning contest.

So those are the things that I do after my art show when I have maybe one, maybe two classes left with my students. Let’s go into more detail about this next week cause I think it’s a great question.

Alright. This next question comes from Sharon, and she has a question about Bingo Daubers. I know, if you follow me on Instagram or my blog, you have seen lots of lessons using the Bingo Daubers. And, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s basically just an empty tube and it’s got a little fuzzy tip on the end. You can remove the tip and you can fill it with what I fill it with, which is India ink. Her question is, “I want to make it resist.” She wants her drawings to resist the watercolors. “And I’m thinking of waterproofing. Is that what I should be using?” Yes. So I fill my Bingo Daubers with kind of a mixture of diluted … Well, I just fill it with water and India ink, so diluted India ink. The India ink is water resistant, it’s permanent. And, even when it’s diluted, it’s still permanent. So when you paint with watercolor paint, the ink is not going to smear. So, that’s definitely what I would recommend filling it with.

And my last question comes from my buddy, Marissa. She is trying to make black glue so she can use that to do some of the projects that you can find online. I’ve also got a really popular one on my YouTube Channel. It’s the Sandra Silverzweig portraits, where kids use black glue to create a line drawing of an abstract face. So you can’t buy black glue but you can make it. My recipe involves making it with Elmer’s Glue All and India ink, once again. However, Marissa just sent me a photograph of where she had tried to do that and she literally looks like venom. The stuff is like all over her hands like black slime, which the kids would probably love but that’s not what she’s going for. She wants to know what’s going on here.

So, I have to tell you, when I make my black glue, I use a big kind of plastic tub. I pour in Elmer’s Glue All and I pour in India ink and I start to stir. And I noticed that there was a strange chemical reaction where, when I stirred it enough, it started to get very weird stretchy and sticky. So, if that happens, you might want to test it out kind of in a small little cup. If that happens to you, you might want to consider instead of using India ink, using black Tempera paint. The reason I switched to India ink was because I thought it would come out of the tubes better, out of my glue bottles better but, in fact, I think the Tempera paint might work better next time, simply because it doesn’t do that weird chemical reaction, which I guess is what’s happening there. So, once you’ve got it all mixed up in a big container, then you can use a funnel. Funnel it back into the glue bottles. If what I’m saying makes absolutely no sense, then you might want to check out that lesson on my blog.

Thank you so much ladies for these awesome questions. If you have a question for me, please feel free to send it my way. You can find me at

Okay, I will share with you what is at the tip top of my summertime to-do list, and I’ll also share with you how I am chipping away at this goal. So, if you know me, then you know I am quite the hoarder. I have been at my current school for 12 years. We’ve been in our current home for, I think, seven. I love estate sales, love the thrift store, and I may have a small shopping problem. A big one, if you talk to my husband. So this year, the beginning of the school year, it really all of a sudden started to drive me crazy. I have been slowly and surely chipping away at cleaning out every drawer, every closet, and every space in my teaching and living area, and it is taking me forever. But my goal this summer, at the beginning of summer, is to have every space where I teach and work cleaned out and sell it all at the world’s most “epicest” and “hoarderest”, that word did not come out like I was hoping, yard sale.

So stay tuned on how that summertime goal of mine progresses. Good luck with all of your summertime ventures. Remember, you can do it, no matter how big. If I, Cassie Stephens, can get rid of the mass amounts of JUNK that I currently possess, then I know you can pursue your summertime goals. Have a great week guys.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.