“Besides recharging my batteries, I rethink some of my plans, lessons, etc. that didn't go as well as I had hoped," said one reader.

The phrase ‘summer vacation’ often implies exotic destinations, way too many hot dogs, and unfortunate tan lines, but for educators around the country, it’s also a time to recharge and give themselves the latest upgrade.

For many people, summer vacation is a time that existed in the ‘good ol’ days’ when for two or three months your only problem was figuring out how to stave off boredom. But imagine if you could once again have those months before you went back to work for another year? What would you do with your time?

Recently we asked our eSchool News (eSN) educators that exact question:  “As a teacher, administrator, or school staff member, what’s one summer ‘must’ that you do in order to plan for the upcoming school year?”

And though barbeques and traveling are still on their summer ‘to-do’ lists, many educators go above-and-beyond by reflecting and implementing improvements, getting professional development, and even creating resource spreadsheets for themselves and for their peers.

Here are the top six summer ‘musts’ from our readers, which have been edited for brevity and are in no particular order:

1.Summer reading

“I always reread Harry Wong’s book: The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher. It puts me in the right frame of mind, and reminds me of all the little things to think of before the first day of school, such as having a procedure for everything already mapped out and quickly addressing the things students are most worried about.” – Chris Graham-Herring

“I read at least one highly recommended education book to refresh my teaching skills. This summer, I am reading Focus: Elevating the Essentials for Radically Improved Student Learning by Mike Schmoker. I also spend more time outdoors to refresh my energy level.” – Eileen DiCarmine

“We have opened our school library during the summer (one day per week) for story time, check out, Accelerated Reader quizzes, activities, lunch or snacks, themed weeks, and more. We are volunteering our time to help prevent the ‘summer slide.’ We are blessed to have dedicated teachers and principal to allow this to occur.” – Dortha Johnston, School Librarian, Emerald Shores Elementary, Fla.

2.Take a deep breath

Along with improving technology tool skills, getting in touch with colleagues to exchange best practices, and traveling to bring back news and pictures for the third grade class, “balance is the toughest ‘must-do’ of the them all! I try to remind myself that a truly great teacher has balance in his/her life and models that for students. You’re out of steam by November and again by March, if you don’t take at least a little time for you in the summer. Summer reading, cooking, exercising, relaxing–it’s the single most important investment a teacher can make, and how the hardest-working teachers stay on top of their game during the school year.” – Jennifer Gates, Norton Park Elementary

“Breathe! Take time to slow way down and enjoy your family and friends, read a book for fun, and visit some place new. Also, update your webpage, reflect on the previous year and make improvements, and eliminate clutter and organize your work space and home.” –  Dianne K. King, MEd, GCDF, Career Development Coordinator, NC Virtual Public School DLA, N.C.

3.Professional development—practice makes perfect

“I attend our state’s annual technology conference in Birmingham, Ala. I learn about current technology tools and applications relevant to educators in Alabama. The conference was held the week of June 15th. Here’s a link to the conference: http://ti.alsde.edu/aetc/.” – Deborah Lindsey, Opelika Middle School, Ala.

“After taking the remainder of the month of June to relax and unwind, I spend July reading up on the latest research-based practices to hone my skills. In August, I incorporate new ideas into my teaching to inspire and keep my skills fresh. Changing how I teach requires that I go over my annual plan to revise procedures and routines and to make sure that the changes I am making are appropriate for the content I teach.” – Harmonee

“I need to practice with my new whiteboard and practice using 2 new 2.0 tools, as well as revamp my website. I also want to develop some Anchor Activities and read The Hunger Games.” – Cathy in Nebraska

“Each summer I try to find a workshop, a course, or some other learning experience so that I can go back to the classroom excited and with new ideas.”- Kathryn Hedges

4.Play catch up

“As technology coordinator, summer is the busy season. In 8 weeks every machine must be physically and electronically cleaned and refreshed. Every piece of software has to be updated, re-licensed, and/or cleanly installed. Old machines need to be recycled and new machines have to be setup. I can’t wait for September when the calls settle down to, ‘What was my password?’” – Mark Vanacore, Technology Coordinator, Albion Central School District, N.Y.

“I will be moving from a traditional classroom to a modular classroom because of major renovations being done at my school. In my current room, I have a computer that is all but anchored to the side wall with short cords (meaning that it can’t be moved to provide an LCD connection, an overhead projector, and probably thousands of transparencies to go with the projector. I will be going to a room with a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, and I will be issued a SchoolPad. So my number one priority this summer is to convert my transparencies to PDF files and PowerPoints to use with the SchoolPad.” – Laura Wasem, Classics Department, Walnut Hills High School, Ohio

5.Know your resources

“Organize all the resources that I have so that I can actually implement them. I teach high school math and have created an Excel spreadsheet that lists the resources, chapter alignment, location of hard copy (if applicable) and the link to the electronic form. My list includes brain breaks and content specific activities. I have had good intentions of using these resources in the past, but because they were not organized I did not actually implement many. I have great hopes that this summer investment will pay off next school year.” – Kris Eshelman, High School Mathematics, Liberty Charter High School

“I use my summer to rejuvenate by learning, creating, and tweaking lessons and units. I take the time to nourish my love of reading by not only reading fiction, but also reading the technical books of teaching that the school year inhibits me from giving the concentration that is needed. Summer is also a time where I can quench my thirst of surfing to find new resources to use in units and lessons. These resources are documented on my portaportal (http://www.portaportal.com Visitor: ques2a) and placed in folders on my computer which I then insert into those lessons and units.” – Ellen M. Martin, Quarles Elementary School, Va.

6.Reflect and prepare

“Besides recharging my batteries, I rethink some of my plans, lessons, etc. that didn’t go as well as I had hoped. Were they really flawed or could I have done them another way? The feedback I get from the graduating seniors is invaluable.” – Ed Berry

“Lesson planning and classroom management of manipulatives, learning kits, videos, projects and themes. A summer ‘must’ is to think of creative ways and shop for things to enhance learning through field trips and resource people.” – Angenette Hill

“I am evaluating data for incoming 9th graders and conducting individual student interviews. The stakes are high and mastery in every course is critical for a child’s success. Spending a significant amount of time evaluating an individual’s test scores to provide proper placement can ‘make or break’ a freshman year. It is imperative at the freshman level to provide a foundation of confidence coupled with high expectations in order to prepare every student for a well-rounded high school experience that ultimately prepares them for college or career.” – Stephanie Thompson, FOCUS Freshman Principal, Austin East High School