Teachers: Here’s How to Have a Relaxing-but-Worthwhile Summer Break

It’s here. It’s finally here. The long-awaited and hoped-for summer break has arrived, and aside from enjoying the elation of wrapping up another successful year, you have a chance to rest, recharge and get ready for the start of another school year.

I’ve enjoyed over 20 “last days of school” and I’ve never felt anything like the relief and satisfaction that accompanies the end of a year well-taught. In that spirit, here are some of my favorite ways to make the most of summer breaks.

Take a step away

I taught summer school exactly once. Sure, it was a rewarding experience to work with a needy population, but I found that the lack of a mental break from the demands of teaching brought me into the new school year not as well-rested as I had hoped.

Pulling summer-school duty is fine if you need the money or you genuinely have the stamina to teach all year. But I still recommend finding summer work that removes you a bit from the lives of children.

Don’t feel guilty about that. Instead, think of it as clearing the way for coming back stronger and better prepared in the fall. While it’s not desirable to be unemployed for two months a year, the time away from school opens up large windows of time to try new things. Don’t let the time slip away.

Turn off your away message (and be guilt-free)

Stop using your school-based notifications for as long as reasonably possible. A physical separation from the classroom should be accompanied by a mental and technological break. This disconnection can (but doesn’t need to) include your colleagues.

A little time away to rest and recharge often leads to greater appreciation of work-based collaboration when school begins again. Many teachers do some school-related summer work to get ready for the fall. Do this if it helps you to feel better prepared and enables you to check things off your lists before the start of school.

Don’t do it if you feel tired and drained. I usually went to my classroom one day a week during the summer. Getting ahead of my work, and knowing that the start of school would be smooth, did a great job of getting me mentally prepared and warding off fatigue.

Teach yourself

As teachers, we sometimes forget our own learning in the pursuit of helping others. Use the calmer, quieter days of summer to pursue a new hobby or topic. Exploring something new gives us an important perspective on the difficulties of figuring out something unfamiliar.

This is especially important if you work with a student population where school doesn’t come easily. It sounds like a cliche, but the best teachers are those who never stop being learners. Share your learning experiences with your new students. Talk at length about what was easy and difficult to learn, and how you benefited from trying something new. Students would much rather see an example in action than to just hear about it.

Take it easy on the profession

Everybody agrees that teaching is hard work. The general public knows only what they have experienced themselves and what they see in the media — and their picture of what we do is incomplete. Don’t make this worse by spending your summer complaining about your responsibilities.

We all have challenges at work, and it’s important that we all support our work. Yes, teaching can be maddening at times, and it feels good to give voice to your frustrations. But please avoid hurting the profession with poorly timed and insensitive comments.

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Brian P. Gatens is the superintendent of schools for the Emerson Public School District in Emerson, New Jersey. He has been an educator for more than two decades, working at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. In “From the Principal’s Office,” Gatens shares advice, provides insights, and gives guidance on everything from what principals look for when interviewing teaching candidates to how to work with overly protective parents. His front-line assessments supply candid perspectives on school life.

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