It always rankles me to hear derisive comments about teachers’ breaks (“we get too many”) and summer vacation (“we don’t deserve it”). Though I’m a much more efficient teacher than I was early in my career, when I was regularly up past midnight and my gradebook became an extra appendage, I learned that teaching is both a lifestyle and a job.
Yes, breaks are part of that lifestyle, but so is time spent working nights and weekends from home, time spent beyond circumscribed hours for tutorials and extracurriculars, and time spent planning and developing new materials and instructional strategies. I often look forward to breaks so that I have time to do more work!
There are days when I’m so busy that it’s difficult to get a bathroom break and I have to eat on the go. I love it, but the responsibilities that teachers have are many and growing. That’s why our breaks are not only welcome but also necessary; they provide the opportunity to catch up, recharge, and avoid burnout. As we transition from the end of the school year to summer, there are a number of strategies to renew energy and enthusiasm.
Indulge in a creative outlet
I love to bake. I think I’m happiest when planning and executing a new recipe; the kitchen is my sanctuary. I make sure that I bake a few times a week, since I don’t have time to do that much during the school year. It’s so important to have a creative outlet and to nurture that interest which translates into higher quality work.
I take the opportunity during breaks to organize as much as I can. Organization doesn’t come easily to me, so I constantly work on it. On breaks, I organize all of my upcoming lesson plans and materials, as well as student assignments. When I have the time, such as on longer breaks, I organize around the house. My major project for last summer was to organize the 5000+ photos our family has. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’m done, and it’s easier for me to concentrate when my environment is orderly.
Do your homework
It seems counterintuitive that working on a break can reenergize us, but research can lead to stimulating new ideas. Beyond planning for upcoming units, breaks are a wonderful opportunity to read the latest educational magazines, pore through sample textbooks and educational books, and search for new materials and ideas. I often find strategies to implement that reignite my passion for what I teach and how I teach.
Breaks provide an opportunity for new experiences; new experiences often lead to new ideas. Novel experiences also support emotional well-being. Local museums and public parks are often free or low cost resources for adventures. Websites such as VolunteerMatch can help match you with appropriate opportunities for volunteering. Cultivate a new interest. Wander around your local library and check out the programs and trips offered. Throw a themed party. Begin a new exercise routine. See a play, watch a new movie, go to a concert. The possibilities are endless!
We need the occasional lazy day to rest both mentally and physically. When I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I prioritize. Quite often, what seems urgent can wait. Our well being comes first, and giving ourselves permission to relax allows us to decompress and avoid feeling burned out. We spend a great deal of time nurturing others; we need to remember to nurture ourselves.
Whatever you choose to do over the break, I hope it’s enjoyable and that you return for the new school year feeling refreshed and enthusiastic.