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Hello, Summer! Now What

summer break for teachers

If you’re feeling giddy, you are probably not alone. June is busting out all over, and that comes as a relief to exhausted teachers everywhere. While many of us work through the summer (often in multiple jobs) to make ends meet, the pace of the warmer months is different and, if we’re lucky, a little more relaxed. When we think about what it means to make the most out of summertime, that doesn’t necessarily translate to getting a whole lot done. Maybe being prepared for the coming school year is wise to a degree, but there are many other ways to get a much-needed reset before the grind starts anew in the fall.

Embrace the Nothingness

When I was a child, I regularly got caught sitting around doing nothing. My mother would invariably ask, “Can't you go and find something productive to do?” In adulthood, most of us develop the opposite problem in that we feel guilty if we’re not always doing something useful. However, study after study has shown that boredom holds an important place in our wellbeing, not to mention our capacity to be productive when necessary. Without giving our brains time and space to stop churning, we risk burning out altogether or limiting our potential. The next time you catch yourself staring into space, resist the urge to shake it off and get to work. Instead, give yourself permission just to laze around. Who knows? Some amazing idea might come unbidden anyway without the stress or pressure to produce something, or perhaps you will have just allowed yourself a moment to breathe and take in the world around you. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.

Rewire Your Brain

Teaching is known for its unpredictability, but it is also a fairly routine existence in many ways as daily schedules become ingrained into our very beings. The summer can present a rare opportunity to get out of any ruts that have developed. Even better, there might finally be the time to do something new and different. I work all summer long, but when I had some time off, I used to learn a new skill each year: tap dancing, guitar playing, landscape painting. Mind you, I never became particularly good at any of these endeavors, but the joy was in learning and applying a whole different part of my brain to whatever I was doing. Summer is also a great time to let loose with all the structure to which we’ve become accustomed by taking long walks, exploring unfamiliar places, or meeting new people. Without providing some time to rewire your brain, even time off can feel like work. Therefore, making a concerted effort to change it up yields benefits for mental and emotional wellbeing that stretch beyond the short summer months.

Be Strategic

Each school year is a marathon, not a sprint. Without spending an overabundance of time on planning, it helps to create a strategy for success that will keep things doable for those challenging 10 months in the classroom. Personally, I always preferred to make lesson upgrades or look at what I was teaching in the coming year when June hit, since it was easier for me to plan while the curriculum was still fresh in my head and I remained in “work” mode. If I waited until August, it felt like something was hanging over my head. However, some people prefer to wait, take a serious brain break, and then hit the ground running with planning in the one to two weeks before school starts. Either way, a lot of ground can be covered by doing just two things. The first is to identify the major objectives for the first part of the school year so that they are already in place, and the second is to back map toward the first four weeks of school by determining what assessments will prove that students met the learning targets. If those factors are already determined, it’s much clearer where to begin with planning the daily activities that make up each lesson. 

Pick Up a Healthy Habit

When the summer yawns ahead of us in June, it can be tempting to resolve to do all the things to become healthier versions of ourselves. The problem is, piling on activities when we have a lot more time (a daily swim plus freshly prepared veggies with some meditation thrown in for good measure) becomes untenable once the school year restarts. Instead, selecting one healthy change to make that is actually sustainable into the school year will give us two months to practice as the habit becomes ingrained in our lives. It helps to think about the list of things we’d love to try and start with the one that is either the most exciting or the most achievable. For example, I would love to be able to do a pull-up by the end of the summer, so I’ve committed to working on that one goal. That doesn’t mean I will neglect to do anything else for my wellbeing, but having that focus will help me feel more accomplished and also lays the groundwork for a habit I can sustain into the school year.

Have Fun

Sometimes when I’m joking around with my kids, I say, “I used to be fun.” But the truth is, I’m only half-kidding. Prioritizing fun might not be possible when the daily grind is all too present, but summer usually provides a little more leeway. To quote the Cat in the Hat, “It’s fun to have fun, but you have to know how.” To that end, think about the things that provide joy and try to chase them. From outdoor concerts and movies to time by the pool, it’s more than possible to tap into our inner sense of childhood and let loose a little bit.

Summer is here, but as we all know, it goes by way too quickly. Rather than create endless to-do lists that become stressful, the ideal is to work toward a balanced existence, which isn’t something that most teachers can find during the school year. Instead, leaning into a slightly more relaxed and happier version of ourselves will ensure that when school begins again in the autumn, everyone feels good about how they spent these beautiful summer days.

Written by Miriam Plotinsky, Education World Contributing Writer

Miriam Plotinsky is an instructional specialist with Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where she has taught and led for more than 20 years. She is the author of Teach More, Hover Less, Lead Like a Teacher and Writing Their Future Selves. She is also a National Board-Certified Teacher with additional certification in administration and supervision. She can be reached at or via Twitter: @MirPloMCPS

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