As an Elementary School teacher I am immersed 8 hours a day in a buzz of constant movement, a jumble of sounds sometimes bordering on cacophony, and a pressure cooker of pull between competing tasks that never seem to really get done. Even after I get home at night my activity is focused on analyzing the mistakes and accomplishments of my students in their search for understanding and making sure tomorrow’s mechanics will run smoothly.
By the time summer vacation comes around, my batteries really need recharging. So, as I regain my sense of self over the break I am acutely aware that my hard-earned summer vacation will soon come to an end. In four weeks time, once again I will take on that awesome and humbling responsibly that I have chosen as my career: teaching children how to synthesize information and critically solve problems in collaboration with adults, peers, and independently in writing.
Vacation days – including a long summer break if you don’t teach year round – are a huge incentive to bring people into a career that is emotionally, intellectually, and organizationally challenging. The following ten essential summer break activities can benefit all teachers and prepare you for another rigorous and successful school year.
1) Say thank you to your spouse. If you are a teacher, your significant other dedicates a lot of patience and often helps with unexpected assorted classroom jobs that arise throughout the school year. Summer is the time to let them know how much you appreciate their physical and emotional support.
2) Make it up to your pets. Let’s face it, during the school year pets are likely to be lowest on the totem pole so make good with the extra grooming, walking, or cuddle time over those summer months.
3) Spend time with a fellow teacher and do not talk about anything school related. Most teachers lament the social time that is lacking during the year to just be friends. Whether it is a trip to a local coffee shop, a play date at the zoo, or a quiet dinner, make a point to connect with a colleague over the summer and support each other as people, not just educators. The Denver Zoo is an excellent choice for teachers to meet with or without their own kids. How freeing it feels to be there but NOT on a field trip.
4) Read over the summer. I’m always begging my students as I say good-bye at the end of the year to pick up at least one book. This suggestion is a no-brainer for me because I adore books. But if you’re not the bibliophile I am, at least read three books. Read one professional resource, one absolutely cheeseburger-nothing-but-fun book (I just finished Dragon House (2009) by John Shors, a Colorado writer with extensive travel experience), and one book you might share with kids next year. Here’s a list of suggestions for literature that can help build classroom community in the fall.
5) Sleep in – but not all the time. When I became a teacher part of me decided I was nuts. Waking up at the crack of dawn and greeting students before 8 a.m. tested me. Now, I’m a mother and it’s not an issue because I am routinely up before the sun. But I do occasionally sleep late over the summer just to feel self-indulgent. However, don’t let it get out of control. Keeping a routine of some sort will help in the fall when the alarm clock rings at less civilized hour.
6) Find 5 new recipes for easy lunch and dinner ideas for the school year. So far I’ve chosen recipes for delicious breakfast smoothies, a tasty looking pasta salad and a recipe for four cheese calzones. Choose recipes that are easy to prepare at home and don’t require more than a microwave, or recipes may be prepared in bulk and frozen for quick grab-and-go lunches throughout the busy school months.
7) Get rid of (at least) one tired old school outfit and purchase (at least) one new outfit. This really needs no explanation but as an old friend used to say, “When you look good, you feel good, and when you feel good, you do good things.” If you really are dedicated to teaching, you are committed to doing good things. Summer time is the right time to reevaluate the wardrobe so you look and feel great when all eyes are on you when you go back to school.
8) Make and keep those appointments for your health – visit your doctors, dentists, and other health care providers. It may not sound like much fun, but do something important for yourself that will help you stay strong for another year in the classroom.
9) Get your car a check up too. Lots of school year commuting can be hard on your vehicle. Making time for some routine maintenance over the summer break, especially if you are not already taking a road trip, can make the beginning of the next school year safer and smoother. If you are in Denver, I highly recommend my mechanics at Station Automotive.
10) See something new this summer. Whether it is Mesa Verde, the opposite coast, or the local botanic garden, see something you’ve never seen before. Not only will you feed your soul, you can share these nourishing memories with your new flock in the fall. If you are in the Denver Metro area, don’t miss King Tut at the Denver Art Museum, the Henry Moore exhibit at the Denver Botanic Gardens, or get outside and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Colorado’s State Parks.
Teaching children is like climbing mountains. If you are physically and mentally prepared in advance, the climb becomes less a painful slog to reach a high point than a meandering journey through a wilderness of wonderful things. These ten tips are by no means an exhaustive list and they represent the things that will help me personally this summer. By taking time for these ten suggestions, other teachers may also be able to stand strong at the door, smiling when the first bell of the new year rings.
The Denver Zoo
Dragon House by Colorado author, John Shors
Denver Post; Kyle MacMillan; “When it comes to artistic allure, King Tut is tops”
Denver Botanic Gardens
Colorado State Parks
Bon Appetit Magazine
The National PTA; Building Successful Partnerships: A Guide for Developing Parent and Family Involvement ProgramsBuild a Strong Classroom Community Using Literature