Summer Break: Tips for Teachers Who Need to Rest and Recharge

It’s often said that a school year is a marathon — not a sprint. And just like those who run 26.2 miles, teachers need to find a way to rest and recharge when their annual race is done.

Dedicated teachers feel a sense of tired accomplishment after sending the children on their summer breaks and packing up their classrooms. They need some time to let that feeling fade before getting ready for the next school year. Here’s how I suggest making that happen:

Take a technology break

Going on a trip is a great way for teachers to recharge their batteries over the summerOne side effect of our connected society is that we are always on — perpetually plugged into our devices. Without realizing it, we’ve become a society that moves from the screen of our home laptop to our phone to our work computer, repeating that cycle over and over again.

This leads to a fatigue we may not even realize. The best remedy is to take the time to put an “I’m away from the office” message on your work email, noting that you’ll only be checking it intermittently during the summer.

If you subscribe to education-related newsletters or email lists, put them on hold for at least the beginning of the summer break. Using the “hide” option on Facebook also enables you to pause updates.

Return to the beginning

In your younger and more idealistic days, you probably came across books that inspired you to become a teacher. Go to your bookshelf and pull down those old books and spend some time rereading them.

They’ll remind you why you chose teaching as your career and enable you to take the wider view of the impact of your work. For me, the works of Jonathan Kozol and Ted Sizer always serve this purpose. Their honest accounts of the impact of schools on the lives of children have given me a place to return to time and time again.

Be with kids, but not in charge

Constantly supervising students and being responsible for their academic development is strenuous. Being around children and having fun with them isn’t.

Try to find a situation where you can spend some time with children outside of a supervisory role. Many teachers I know return to camps where they used to work to catch up with old friends. While you’re there, spend some time playing with the kids — old-fashioned camp games are a great way to refresh your spirit.

Take a student break

Alternately, you could get a summer job where you don’t have to work with children. Don’t feel bad if that’s what you want to do. In my teaching career I taught summer school just once.

I learned early on that I needed to be away from the classroom during the summer to reset and get ready for the next school year. That extended break enabled me to re-enter the classroom with a fresh set of eyes and renewed spirit.

Go on a real vacation

Pack up your car, perhaps get on a flight, go to a new place, or do whatever you can to see and experience something you haven’t before.

Many teachers I know tend to bring their work along with them. Leave the laptop, educational magazine and iPhone at home (or at least in the hotel room) and spend some time away from all things school-related. We love our work more when we’re not inside of it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Giving greatly of yourself to your students is a gift of our profession, but don’t forget to take time for yourself. Doing so will enable you to return to the classroom with renewed vigor, energy and joy.

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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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