Summer Self-Care for Teachers: How to Relax, Recover, and Prepare for Fall

The last day of school is always bittersweet: Saying goodbye to students can be tough, but usually teachers are so exhausted when summer comes around that they need some time to recover. As you prepare to close up shop for the summer, consider these five summertime tips for relaxing, recovering and preparing for fall.

Before you go: Take note

You don’t have to plan everything for next year before summer break, but make notes of major schedule changes, units or individual activities that can be improved or that went particularly well, and create a fall to-do list.

Many of these critiques or changes are fresh in your mind in April or May — when you have little energy or time to modify them — but fade into the background by August. Without a list, the work required to recapture necessary lesson changes eats up precious fall prep time. A good set of notes and goals before you leave will make for an easier August. It also allows you to set one or two distinct summertime goals and keep them separate from your fall-prep workload.

Take care of you

Teachers need to take a mental as well as a physical break during the summer.Hectic school year schedules mean that a variety of personal necessities get set aside, often including teachers’ own health and wellness. Whether you schedule annual eye or physical appointments or develop healthy habits that can last through the school year, take some time to take stock of your physical needs. A more open summer schedule is an opportunity to do the things you’ve put off.

Better yet, get out and play. Long days of teaching, planning, and grading get in the way of a nature hike or a game of disc golf, but summer break is just the time to engage in this kind of fun. Remember: Teachers need recess as much as the kids, so take advantage of the time in front of you. Rec centers and community education programs often offer short classes in the summer. Consider shedding the teacher role and becoming a student in something fun.

Fill the well

Being an educator is mentally as well as physically exhausting. In addition to taking care of your physical self, take time to fill your mental well. For some, this means continued pedagogical training, research, and professional development, but for others it means reading a good book in the sun.

Don’t just fill your summer to-do list with tasks put off during the school year — make sure to give yourself break time to fill that intellectual well. Between podcasts, YouTube channels, and summer book lists, there is a wealth of intellectual exploration at the ready. Giving yourself time to be a curious student of the world will pay off when you return to the classroom. And besides, students will love to hear stories about what you discovered over the summer.

Get ahead

Many teachers do professional development over the summer because there’s so little time for it during the jam-packed school year. In her article “12 Low-Cost Professional Development Ideas for Summer Break,” Kim Haynes outlines a variety of ways to expand your professional development, both for personal and professional benefit.

Whether it’s formal through your district or a university or through informal online tweetchats and message boards, participating in professional development can help recharge you over summer break. Ensuring that you are surrounded by people who also love to teach and armed with new ideas to implement in the fall, these conferences, workshops and social media discussions can really help reignite the passion for teaching when you’re feeling the most burnt out.

Shut down, unplug, reboot

Teaching is a calling, not just a profession, which makes it difficult to step away. To fight exhaustion and burnout, consider trying to step out of the teacher mindset entirely for a short while. Whether that be through a vacation, technology break, or some good fiction, this doesn’t have to last for the entire summer. Even a week or two of total cut-off from the teaching life will help recharge your excitement and energy for fall.

Getting away from computers, email, and your daily school-year habits can be tough, but it will help you reconnect with yourself and your family. Take the time to nap, sleep in and enjoy the benefits of your vacation. Before you know it, you’ll be back in the classroom going over to-do lists and getting ready for another meaningful school year.

Monica Fuglei is a graduate of the University of Nebraska in Omaha and a current faculty member of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado, where she teaches composition and creative writing.

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