Summer has arrived! Teachers finally get a break from planning, grading, and students. It’s necessary time to refresh and relax.
But what’s the best thing to do with your time? Here are five helpful ways I’ve found to make the most of your summer. I’ve skipped the obvious things like go on vacation or take the kids to the pool. And I’m not real big on those “how to give your children the best summer ever” posts. Because ultimately you have to take care of yourself to be the best person you can be once school begins again.
Disclaimer: My wife is also a teacher and my children and old enough to entertain themselves. We also live in a walkable community so I don’t have to get them many of the places they want to go. If you have young children and feel like your summers aren’t truly yours to do what you want to, I’ve been there.
It’s easy for me to get in 10,000 steps when I’m on my feet teaching all day. But if I’m just sitting around the house reading, eventually I start to look like that’s what I’ve been doing.
I try to maintain my yoga practice over the summer (which for some reason is harder when I’m not on a schedule) and take the dog for long walks. Staying fit makes it easier to go back to school in August. And if I can work out more over the summer because I have more free time, that’s great too! (P.S. don’t forget to eat some ice cream, though.)
Summer is also a great time to try out new forms of exercise, like boxing or rock climbing. Our bodies like change, and if I feel like I’m in a rut nothing helps more than mixing it up a little by trying something new.
Complete a project
Over the summer I miss the sense of completion that I get from teaching every day. Howver, over the summer I don’t always get that satisfaction of a day well spent. It’s easy to feel like the days go by without having done anything worthwhile. That’s why I like to give myself a little project to accomplish over the summer – something that’s just for me.
Therefore it can’t be a home project like painting the basement or doing landscaping (both of which I’m doing this summer). It could be taking a class. Lynda has lots of great online classes, and many public libraries offer you access to them for free. But don’t forget there’s a lot of great adult education classes that aren’t far from you. Check local colleges. One year I took a figure drawing class at the local art school. Or maybe start your own blog.
Reading books can also be a project too. One summer I read War and Peace (which took most of the summer). Last year I challenged myself to read more books by people of color that by white authors.
I love to anticipate the summer because of the things that I always do when summer arrives. When my children were younger and less busy we always went strawberry picking. But these rituals can be personal rituals, as well. I always take my friend Lara’s nine o’clock yoga class at least once over the summer because I can’t during the school year. I also read a Richard Russo novel when I’m on vacation.
Rituals are important because they provide some structure for teachers who are used to it every day. The lack of routine is the hardest thing for me to adjust to – so much so that I find myself happier in the summer if I plan out my day. But these rituals also help me to settle into summer, which can be hard for me as well. The first couple of weeks are hard for me, and having these benchmarks helps with the transition.
Go to the grocery store in the morning on a weekday.
I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but this is one of my favorite summer activities. Nothing is better than shopping for groceries when no one is there. It’s kind of a zen activity, actually. I try to go the whole summer without shopping on a weekend.
Do some schoolwork (or don’t.)
Whatever makes you happy. If you completely need a break from school for a couple of months, then do that. If you like to work on school stuff over break, then do that. However, don’t say that you have to do anything school related. There are millions of teachers out there who have made different choices than you, and reframing I have to to I choose to is a powerful way to retain control over your summer (thanks to Kelli Wise and her excellent podcast for this helpful tip.)
I choose to stay lightly engaged over the summer. I’m currently reading some YA novels that I am adding to my classroom library this year, something that’s helpful for me when school starts so I can recommend them, but is also a nice way to spend the summer. I will be teaching a unit on 18th century poetry, so I might do a little research on that. And of course blogging is a way for me to stay engaged in the educational community.
Although I might do a little planning, I have found planning lessons over the summer to be counterproductive. If I spend a day of PD planning out the first three weeks of class, I will find myself redoing all that work once the students arrive and get a feel for what they need. I’m a more efficient planner when I’m in school mode again anyway.
If you have any great tips for how teachers should spend their summer, add them to the comments below!
Here are some other blog posts you might enjoy:
Writing Rubrics That Give You Back Your Weekends
Building Better Topic Sentences
Mini Timed Writings: Getting Students to Write More Without More Grading
A Workshop Approach to Essay Planning
Learning should be fun! Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for fun resources like the ones you see below.