Professional Learning

Taking Care of Yourself Over the Summer (Ep. 175)

Inspired by his time at the AOEU Team Retreat, Tim is here to talk about everything you can do to make the summer meaningful. That may be a little bit of artmaking, a little bit of PD, or a lot of nothing. Listen as he discusses why we need to find time for ourselves, how that helps our students, and why you might just want to visit an arts festival in the summer months.  Full episode transcript below.

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Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by the Art of Education University. And I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.

I think we can officially say it is summer. Some people have been out of school for a month, maybe more. A lot of people are jealous that you’ve done that, but good for you. Some people have been out for maybe a week, but hopefully everybody has been enjoying it. And we’re going to talk today about what you do over the summer to take care of yourself, to make yourself better, and by extension to help your students and help make your students better. And I’m going to share a couple of my favorite things that I think every art teachers should try and do over the summer. But I also want to talk a little bit about just some things that are related to the Art of Ed because people are always asking what’s it like to work for AOE? Like what do you guys do? And people are kind of curious about that. So, I wanted to share a little bit today, and I don’t know if this is like a behind the scenes look necessarily, but I want to tell you a little bit about one thing we do every summer with AOE, and maybe that can get you thinking about some things that you can do on your own to again, like I said, improve yourself and just help yourself over the summer.

So, one of the highlights of every summer for me is the team retreat that we do for AOE. And, like I said, it’s kind of separate from what I eventually want to get to today. But I think it’s worth discussing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s fun. And secondly, like I said, people are curious about it. So, I love to talk about working for AOE, everything we do. I try not to do too much of it, but I know, like I said, people are curious. People want to know. So, I’m going to share today because it can provide you some ideas on what you can do for yourself during the summer. And that’s in more general terms. Obviously not everyone’s coming to the Art of Ed retreat, but my hope is in sharing some of those activities and ideas that we do on our team, some of the things that we’ve done, that may provide you a little bit of an avenue for what you might be able to do yourself or maybe give you some ideas about what you may want to do over the summer.

So, the team retreat. Every summer we get as much of the AOE team as possible together in the giant metropolis of Osage, Iowa, where our headquarters, are, and when I say giant metropolis, I believe it’s a little over 3,000 people. It’s a very small town in Northern Iowa, but it’s really cool to get everybody together because almost everyone who works for AOEU is from a different part of the country. We have people in California and Utah to Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin in the Midwest, down to Texas, up to Vermont and everywhere in between. And we spend all of our time throughout the year talking to each other online and through video chats and on the phone, but we never meet in person. So, it’s really great to get the team together all in one place and actually be able to meet in person, because it these people you know that you see maybe once or twice a year even though you’re talking to them every day and sending emails and communicating, every single day. We rarely get to see each other in person. So, it’s really nice to, to be able to do that.

Just think about maybe your teaching friends that you only see at the national conference or the people that you just run into once or twice a year and just thinking about how excited you are, like the joy that brings you to actually see them in person. It’s a really great feeling, and I love that.

And so, when we got to the retreat, one of the first things we did is we did a ribbon cutting because, as we’ve talked about, as most of you know, AOEU, that U is official. We’re an official university this year, and we had a ribbon cutting to celebrate that at headquarters. And even though we’re online, all of our courses are online, everything we do is online, we can still do a ribbon cutting out the physical headquarters. So, that was a really cool experience and a really good chance for us to celebrate kind of all of the hard work that goes into becoming accredited as a university and being able to offer a master’s degree.

And along with that, we spent a lot of time reflecting on how we got there and thinking about what we can do and thinking about what we can do better in the near future and a little bit further down the road.

And before I talk about that just a little bit more, I think I would encourage you, as you’re listening to this, to kind of think about … I’m always asking you to reflect on things and to reflect on your teaching in this podcast, but as I’m talking about some of these things, do spend some time thinking about your teaching. Like what does that mean for your teaching? Like what do you do that’s really good? What can you do better really soon? What can you do better this coming year? But also think three years from now, five years from now, what do you want your classroom to look like? Who do you want to be as a teacher? What are those future goals? And so, just kind of think about that as you’re here listening to this or maybe after you’re done, kind of reflect on those questions. Like, what do I do well? What can I do better? Who do I want to be or what can I do better in the future?

Now, we kind of address those questions through a lot of different lenses because, as you know, the Art of Ed does so many different things. We talked about, in terms of the university, like how did we get to becoming university? What did we do well? What are we currently doing well? What can we do better in the future? The courses that go along with that. Art Ed Pro, our online professional development, what do teachers need? What sorts of learning packs would help you? And by the way, if you have any suggestions for more learning packs that you think we really need or things you want to see, shoot me an email. I will be happy to pass that along.

And for me, the two big ones are the Art Ed Now Conference that we put on every year. It’s like less than a month away now. So, you’ll be hearing a little bit more about that on the podcast. But again, we’re constantly striving to do better with that, thinking what kinds of presentations do people need? How do we make that day of experience better? How do we help people continue that learning on and on after the conference is done?

And finally, the podcast here and talk about what types of guests do we need? Like what type of topics should we cover? Who do we want to talk to? What do we want to talk about? And again, just trying to make things better, trying to make things more interesting to bring more value to everybody who’s listening and kind of do what they want and what they want to hear.

And the other kind of exciting thing, going back to this in person meetup thing, is I was able to spend a lot of time with Nic Hahn, and a lot of you know Nic. She runs the Mini Matisse blog. She’s an art teaching superstar, has a huge Instagram following and is just generally awesome in every way. So, I love talking to her. And one of the things we’re able to address is her new podcast. So, you may have heard. You may not, but as far as the Everyday Art Room podcast, the other podcasts that AOEU puts out, Cassie Stephens has stepped away from that podcast, and Nic Hahn is taking over. Her first episode is going to meet next week.

So, I got to spend a lot of time talking to Nic about what her podcast is going to look like, what you can expect from it, like how we make that great, how she can share all of her awesome ideas with the people who are going to listen. So, I think I’m going to have her on the podcast next week here, on Art Ed Radio, to kind of talk more about that new show because I think it’s something that you’ll enjoy. And even though she’s an elementary art teacher, there’s so many ideas that she has, so many things that she does that can transfer to the high school level. And I think there’s going to be a lot there, that people can take a lot of things, that you’ll be able to find valuable. But we’ll talk about that next week when she’s on.

And besides all of that, besides all of the work-related stuff, we spent a lot of time talking about ourselves, and we do something that’s concerned with the whole person, what you do outside of work, or what you do … What are your interests besides just your job, and how do you prioritize those things? And so, as I guess talk about and describe some of these things that we did at our retreat, think about if you can do those things yourself, if you can find the time to prioritize these things. It’s going to be different for everybody, but let me just kind of describe what we did and see if any of that sort of piques your interest and see if any of that is something that you think you could search out and learn a little bit more or participate in as well.

So, one thing we spent a lot of time talking about relaxation and self care and wellness and just a lot of time thinking about how to be mindful, how to be present with what you’re doing and different ways to alleviate stress, both physically and mentally. And so, doing a lot of reflection, doing a lot of breathing exercises and learning relaxation techniques and all of those sorts of things that don’t take that long to learn. They don’t take long to implement. Like if you have five minutes or 10 minutes and can do those sorts of things, it can be really helpful.

And we did what we called gratitude journals, where you just take a couple of minutes each day and you do bullet points. Just three things that you are thankful for that happened in the last 24 hours. And that’s such an amazing technique to be able to get your mindset right. If you spend time reading and writing about the things that make you happy, the things that you appreciate, the things that make your life better, it just changes your mindset in such a meaningful way. It seems subtle. It’s something that isn’t overtly like this is going to make me happy. But, just spending a little bit of time thinking about what you’re thankful for, what you appreciate, really can change your mindset in a positive and a better way.

We also spent a lot of time making art, and that is something that I would encourage everybody to do. When you have the summer, when you have time to do that, get out your art supplies and work. It may be painting. You may be putting together a sculpture. You may be throwing something on the wheel. You may just be doing some drawing. You may be taking photographs. Whatever interests you, whatever you’re passionate about, go for it. Or if there’s a new media or a new technique that you want to learn, go for it. Just spend some time making art.

And I had a few years where I was just so busy with everything that I was doing, both teaching and related to the Art of Ed, that I couldn’t do anything other than my sketchbook. And that’s okay. Like spend 10, 15 minutes of drawing in your sketchbook, just doodling, just making to-do lists, whatever. Spend some time working with color and working with writing and just play around in your sketchbook a little bit. And even that little bit of creative thought and creative effort is going to make you feel so much better, even if it is a limited time, that’s going to be incredibly valuable. And eventually, you’ll get to a time in your life where you have time to get back to drawing, get back to painting, get back to whatever it is that you do. But even if you’re pinched for time and don’t feel like you can do it, just make it a little bit of time to work in your sketchbook and do small things. And I promise you that will be incredibly valuable.

And then, as we kind of wrapped things up at the retreat, we spent some time being thankful and being appreciative. Again, just going back to the things that we are grateful for and how thinking about that, reflecting on that, spending time with those thoughts is going to make you feel so much better.

And another really cool thing that we did to kind of … I don’t know if you want to say pay it forward or pass along that appreciation and that thankfulness was we wrote letters to people to tell them how much we appreciate them, how valuable they are, how important of a role they play in our life. And not only does that make you feel good to write that, to pass that message along, but just imagine the reaction of people who receive that. And another thing that we talked about is all of our communication right now is digital. It’s video chat, it’s Face Time. We talk via email and via messages, but we never have conversations, and we never ever, ever hand write letters. So, just the idea of getting a letter in the mail and thinking about the time a person spent to do that is just such an incredible feeling. And so, I feel really good about writing those. I feel really good about sending those, and I know the people on the receiving end are really going to appreciate them as well, and that just makes you feel good.

So, I hope that some idea in there is helpful for you. Something that you want to follow through on there is going to make you feel better about doing it because all of those things were incredibly worthwhile for me. I’m feeling great after doing all of them, and I would absolutely encourage you to do something similar, whether you’re in a rut right now or you just want to spend some time being more mindful and more thankful and make yourself feel better, it’s going to be valuable to do one, if not all of those things. So, kind of think about that.

But also, another thing that I wanted to talk about. One of my favorite things to do there during the summer, I wrote an article about this awhile ago, but I feel like every teacher should visit a summer arts festival if they have the opportunity over the summer. Because, let’s be honest, there’s food, there’s entertainment, and most importantly there’s art, and it’s an amazing way for you to be able to recharge, to be able to refresh, which we should be doing over the summer and to get inspired either to make art yourself, to get some ideas back to your classroom, help your students, or ideally both of those things. And so, what I like to encourage people to do when you get to a summer arts festival, watch a demonstration. One of my favorite things about going to arts festivals is so many artists who are working throughout the weekend or throughout the days the festival is going on. You may be able to see some really cool stuff. Like, maybe there’s some metal smithing going on or some glass blowing. But even if you just see some sketching or people working on portraits or heck caricature artists, all of those things are really cool to see. And it’s fun to, to watch some demonstrations. You may just want to watch. You may want to try and learn, but no matter what, you’re going to be able to enjoy that.

And kind of on a side note with that, if you’re watching and wanting to learn, talk to the artist. You may want to find out more about their technique. You may want to talk to them about how to incorporate that into your classroom. But by and large, most of the artists there love to talk. They love to share what they’re doing. They love to discuss with you, especially if find out that you’re an art teacher. They’re going to want to talk shop. They’re going to want to talk about their work. So, stop by the booth or just hit him up during or after a demo and just say, “Hey, I really admire your work. Can I talk to you about this? Can I ask you about how you do this?” You’re going to love that conversation. They’re going to love that conversation. And who knows what you’re going to learn.

And if you have a chance while you’re there to actually make some art yourself, do that. There are so many art-making booths that are usually there. Maybe it’s a simple fun thing that you can do just working with some oil pastels, or heck I’ve finger-painted at a booth before at an arts festival, and it may seem sort of silly or sort of frivolous, but it’s totally worth it. So, if you have a chance to make art there, do it. If nothing else, bring your sketchbook. There’s some amazing street scenes. There’s amazing people watching, amazing things that you can capture in your sketchbook. And it’s another opportunity for you to make art.

And, I guess one other thing, when you’re at an arts festival, if you have the means, I would encourage you to buy something. It’s something that you can get inspiration from, draw happiness from the entire year round. Maybe, it’s an outdoor sculpture. Maybe it’s a painting to hang in your kitchen or even in your classroom. Maybe, it’s a giant wall hanging that replaces whatever is above your couch right now. But if you have the ability to buy something, even something small, do it. You want to support artists. If you see people making cool things, give them your money so they can continue to make cool things. We’re all going to be better off for doing that. And that’s not a thing that you’re going to regret is purchasing some art from an artist, supporting local artists. That’s a wonderful thing to do. And so, if you can make that happen, I would definitely encourage you to do that.

But yeah, just, I don’t know. A few other things as we’re thinking about things to do over the summer. And actually before I get this, let me say these aren’t things that you have to do. If you’re tired, if you’re feeling a little bit burnt out from the year, don’t worry about your classroom. Spend some time away. Definitely keep making art, write a letter and tell somebody why you appreciate them. Spend some time thinking about your own wellness. All of those things are going to be really valuable. But if you do those things without putting any effort or any thought into your classroom, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s going to be just fine. We feel all of this pressure to continually get better throughout the year. But if you need time to step away and take care of yourself, do that.

If, though, you were on the other end of the spectrum, if you are really excited about the new year, already thinking or just constantly thinking about what you want to do, what you want to improve next year, there are ways to do that. Summer reading is amazing. All those books that you saw about classroom management or amazing lessons or instructional strategies, get to them this summer. Spend some time reading and thinking and figuring out how that’s going to help your classroom.

A second thing I think is important. Get together with people you know. If you can do something in person with colleagues or other art teachers from your area, even if it’s just a lunch to sit and hang out and maybe talk a little bit of shop, that’s going to be worthwhile. If you can’t do it in person, try following some new people on social media and even better, reach out to them. People who are sharing cool things on social media, they want your support too. And more often than not, they’re going to be willing to help you, willing to answer your questions, willing to talk to you about how they could improve that or how you could incorporate it in their classroom. They love to help. They love to share, and so don’t be afraid to reach out.

And finally, if you’re taking some courses, that is going to be an incredible thing. If you need grad credit or you’re working on a masters, there’s no better time than the summer, and obviously I need to encourage you to check out the Art of Ed University. But there are amazing things that you can learn over the summer. And like I said, the more time you have to dedicate to that, the better off you’re going to be. It’s just something that you can do over the summer. You can focus more on it, you can give it your full attention, and you’re going to learn more.

And if you’re not doing grad credit, there are still courses available other places. Maybe it’s just a life drawing course through a local studio or a pottery class. Or maybe you go online and find a digital course that teaches you how to do better things with Photoshop, or you want to learn Illustrator, anything like that. All of those ideas are incredible because what it comes down to is just making ourselves a little bit better, taking the opportunity and the time we have over the summer to improve who we are and what we do. And like I said, that’s going look different for everybody. And I want you to think about how it can and how it should look for you, because maybe it’s taking care of just you. Maybe you’re doing things to take care of your students. Hopefully you’re finding the right thing that’s going to take care of both you and your students. So, think about that, reflect on that when you’re trying to decide what to do with the rest of the summer that’s in front of you.

And, more than anything, just find something. Do something. Because when you take better care of yourself, that’s when you’re better able to help and to teach your students.

Art Ed Radio is produced by the Art of Education University with audio engineering from Michael Crocker. Thank you for listening. Go start thinking about what you’re going to do this summer and come back next week when Nick Hahn will be here talking about her new podcast. Thank you.

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.