Summer’s coming to a close. For some of you, this means you’re nearing the end of a season spent traveling, relaxing, or researching; others of you are winding down your summer courses.

No matter how you’ve been spending your time this summer, you’re probably considering how you can gear up for the fall term. You’re certainly planning and preparing for your courses, and considering new ways to motivate and engage your students. But you may also be on the lookout for ways to get yourself motivated and engaged!

Below, we’ve shared a few ideas that can help you sharpen your skills before the new school year begins. Have any you’d like to add to the list? Please share them in the comments!

Four ways to prepare yourself for the new school year

Make time for training

Before you head into the classroom to teach your next class full of students, investigate some ways that you can learn some new teaching strategies for yourself. Consider training on new technologies, instructional skills, communication, campus policies and procedures, leadership development, or any other topics that relate to your success as an educator. To begin, find out if your school or department will be offering any professional-development sessions that you can attend. You may also be able to earn continuing-education units for your time.

For “on-demand” learning opportunities, review the modules, workshops, and recorded webinars available through our Professional Development Portal. (You can also earn CEUs through many of these opportunities as well.)

Are you using Cengage Learning’s MindTap this year? Sign in to the MindTap Educators’ Studio, designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of how MindTap helps you achieve your course objectives—from personalizing the learning path to customizing the interactive eBook, using MindApps and tracking student progress.

Connect with fellow educators

Before you’re fully engaged in all the activities associated with a new school term, reach out to your colleagues and reconnect. Make time for lunch or coffee, or simply send an email to say hello.

Are you new to the school? Find out if your college has an orientation for new faculty, and be sure to attend. If you’re able, talk with one or two other faculty members to learn more about their own experiences at the school. Both of these activities will help you prepare for what you might encounter as you teach your own course.

Learn a completely new skill

The process of learning a new skill can be revitalizing in and of itself. If you’ve been eager to try something new, you may find it worthwhile to start developing new skills while you still have a bit of free time.

Have you always wanted to acquire coding skills? Looking to take up a new athletic endeavor, like tennis or spinning? Or, are you hoping to take up something creative and artistic, like calligraphy or digital photography? Many colleges (including, perhaps, your own) offer recreational or community-education courses that help you develop your skills in a supportive and less-formal environment. If you’re interested in online learning, look at the convenient, engaging, and interactive online courses available from ed2go.

If, however, you don’t have time to invest in a course that lasts several weeks, look for a day- or weekend-long session that gives you an intensive introduction to a new skill or technique.

Start planning for the rest of the year (and the beginning of next year!)

It’s never too early to think through the personal and professional goals you have for this school year. Jot down your ideas, and attach a “due-by” date to hold yourself accountable to their completion. (To create a structure for your goals, try following the GPS Strategy or the ABCS Approach.)

If you’re like many of us, you have a long list of books you want to read (or have several sitting on your shelf!). Why not plan to whittle that list down this year? Make a list of the books you want to be sure to finish this year. Make a “pledge” with yourself to complete that list by a certain date, or read a certain number of them each month.

Are you hoping to attend any conferences in the winter or spring? It may be wise to start booking your trip now, if you can. You might save some money by completing an “early bird” conference registration! In addition, if you start making your reservations now, you’re more likely to book a hotel room that’s in the block set aside for attendees. These rooms are typically more convenient to the conference location, and are often offered at more affordable rates.

As you think through what you’d like to accomplish this year, don’t forget to plan some much-needed time to relax and renew. Consider scheduling time for a “retreat” later in the year, during which you set aside time for personal refreshment or professional development (or perhaps a bit of both). Even a day spent in new or different surroundings can refresh your perspective.

How do you sharpen your skills before the start of a new school year? Share your thoughts in the comments.