What Will You Do This Summer?

The end of the school year means so many things for so many people.  For many teachers and students it means a short break from the day to day challenges educators face each day and believe me, a break IS necessary. Breaks allow for us to rest but there is also research to back up that when our brains are at rest is when they are most creative. This cognitive miracle is a great reason to remember why it is important to take a break, then exercise that cranium this summer!

Here are some suggestions on how to rest but also how to energize, re-connect, and feel great about the next school year.

  1. Join a book study group. This can be done on Twitter or at your local library (yes – they still exist.) Talking to others about a common book is a great way to broaden your horizons.  Try a new education book or a fiction book.  Either way, you are bound to relax and learn something new.  My favorite new read is  The Path to Serendipity by Allyson Apsey found here:   https://www.amazon.com/Path-Serendipity-Discover-Gifts-Journey/dp/1946444715
  2. Get some exercise. We all know that exercise is good for us but sometimes it is hard to find the time to do it. They say it only takes 21 days to start a new habit and I believe that so why not start now?
  3. Get some fresh air. This can be talking a walk, getting out on a boat, or hiking, camping, or just sitting in your yard or on your front porch. Taking the time to acknowledge that our bodies (and minds) need time and space to heal, regroup, then grow are essential.
  4. Try something new.  This can be just about ANYTHING! Are you a thrill seeker? Try something adventurous. If not, try something else. Croqueting, knitting, painting, gardening…you name it!  Remember that almost any activity (including meditation) calls for a certain level of cognitive engagement. Cognitive engagement is necessary for the brain to reset but to also grow. It is like the old saying, “Use it or lose it”. The more our brains are working (efficiently and effectively) the better the outcome.
  5. Play with your pets. This may seem silly to some of you but research indicates the joy of interacting with animals produces endorphins. This is why so many hospitals and nursing homes have therapy dogs or other similar animal volunteers come visit.
  6. Draw or Sing. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw OR sing. Just do it! You can sing in the shower ’til your hearts content or do it in a more formal setting. Take some singing or drawing lessons. Many teachers will offer a first lesson free option to see if you are truly interested. Why not treat yourself to a half hour a week of learning about music or art? These creative niches allow the brain to be creative, productive, and relaxed all at the same time.
  7. Go camping. Talk about connecting with the outdoors? This is the way to go. It is always a good opportunity to “unplug”. My family and I camp in a tent nearly every year. There are beautiful, affordable sites all around the country. Families and friends begin to value the art of conversation, starting and maintaining a campfire for warmth and cooking, and listening to the sounds of nature. Camping is also a great way to be at peace when life throws you curveballs.
  8. Learn about SEL (Social Emotional Learning) If there is one thing you do this summer in regards to getting ready for the 18-19 school year, consider learning about Social Emotional Learning and trauma informed schools.  Although the terms have two slightly different meanings, any school that is trauma informed is also likely equipped to deal with most of the social emotional needs of students. In my opinion, this is the biggest shift in education we have seen in a long time and the research (and strategies and support available) are voluminous. I began learning about SEL a few years ago and began applying it in my district where we have seen tremendous results.
  9. Volunteer. If you have some spare time this summer, consider volunteering. Remember that doing positive things for other people makes US feel good too.

Summer is a great time to learn new things, reconnect with old friends, and prepare for the fall. It is essential that our minds and bodies have a break to re-charge. This is evidenced during the school year when Saturday and Sunday are usually our days of rest. When you think of what to do this summer, consider the need for “brain breaks” as well as stimulation of new knowledge. I know your brain will thank you!

Grant Funding, Finance, and Self-Funding Programs

 

I am so pleased and excited to be featured in this publication. Check out my latest work on blogreign.com.  Here is the link…

http://blogreign.com/karen-wood-superintendent/

Although finance is one of the most challenging areas for school leaders, having knowledge is just the beginning.  After nearly ten years as a Superintendent of Schools, I understand grant funding at the local, state, and national levels.  Experience goes a long way too but having a Chief Financial Officer or Business Administrator is equally as important.

At times in my district we have had to reduce spending or re-allocate funding, we have never “cut” anything.  This is tremendously important when providing necessary programs for students and even more crucial when it comes to retaining qualified staff. The practices we’ve established over the last seven years have sustained staff, provided necessary professional development, and maintained and implemented outstanding programs for students.

I have even been able to implement two very successful self-funding programs in Barnegat. Not only does our Early Learning Center provide for the care of very young children (ages six month of age to six years of age), but this program is completely self-funded. The salaries of all employees, including the Coordinator and all care givers, supplies, and needs are funded by tuition. However this service also provides necessary care for many families in Barnegat and employs many residents as well. It is an affordable day care in Barnegat run by caring individuals at no cost to the district. The location of our facility is unique as well because it allows Barnegat families their first foray into our public schools.

The other self-funding program is our Before and After Care program. This program began because our families had a need for affordable after care. When this program began, nearly five years ago we had approximately 40 students enrolled at one school site (that September). By December of the same year we had close to 100 students.  By the end of the school year we opened before and after care centers in all of our elementary schools. We now have over 400 students enrolled in before and after care. That number exceeds the total enrolled population for one of the elementary schools in our district in Barnegat.

Creating self-funding programs is just one way to be skillful at finance. We are also lucky to be the recipients of a large grant from RWJ Barnabas Health. They provided us with a $500,000 grant over five years that includes a full time prevention specialist in one of our schools, the TALK program, the DART Youth Prevention Program and a unique Med Sci Academy at Barnegat High School.

I am very proud of the accomplishments of our district under my leadership. Passing a tax burden on to tax payers is something that school administrators should work to avoid.  Although funding for programs is necessary, there are many ways to do so that reduce the strain placed on families and community members who are already struggling or on a fixed income.