Summer vacation. Are there any two more wonderful words in the English language? By the time the end of the school year arrives, both students and teachers alike are more than ready for a break.
Teacher burnout is real, and you know it. The past couple of years have been challenging, to say the least. In fact, the NEA estimates that more than half of current educators are considering leaving the teaching profession. Maybe some of your colleagues have already departed. Maybe you’ve even considered it yourself. As you come to the end of another school year, you may be feeling that dreaded burnout and wondering what you can do about it.
Make a Summer To-Do List
One of the keys to combatting burnout is taking time to rest and relax. While it can be a challenge to carve out time for yourself during the school year, summer vacation is tailor-made for this.
Vacation time is critical for your health and well-being, so don’t deny yourself. The sole purpose of summer break is to take a break. And even though you won’t be asked to write a “how I spent my summer” essay at the beginning of the year, you still want to have a good story.
Here are some summer break ideas to help you enjoy your time away from the classroom:
Read… for fun!
Teachers are lifelong learners and often spend their reading time absorbing new material that will help them to become better at their profession. That’s great but your brain needs a break. Give yourself permission to read something just for fun! Stock up on fun magazines and juicy books and read just to be entertained.
Explore a new hobby
Having a hobby can help you relax and decompress while also enriching your personal life. Summertime is a great time to get back into a hobby you’ve enjoyed in the past or test out a new one. You may even find ways to include your hobby in your lesson plans when school starts back up again.
Learn another language
How many times have you wished you could speak to someone in their native language, either in the classroom or during your travels? Learning a new language challenges and changes your brain. Even if you don’t become fluent over the course of the summer, learning another language can open up worlds of possibility in the future.
Reflect on your school year
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to look back. Take a little time to review your school year – what worked, what didn’t, and what was a complete surprise. When you objectively review the prior months, you’ll see what you want to keep and what you want to do differently.
Whether it’s coaching a little league team, participating in a co-ed recreational league, or learning yoga, summer is a great time to be active in ways you find fun. It’s also the perfect opportunity to explore new hiking trails, take that spin class you’ve been eyeing, or start a regular exercise routine.
Be a student
What do you want to learn about? Want to get a little professional development in during your downtime? Find a class or course or workshop that will help you meet those goals.
It’s sometimes difficult to find the time to volunteer during the school year, unless you’re working with students in a service activity. Summer break is a great time to focus your efforts on a cause you find meaningful. Help at a local food bank, community event, or any other cause that is close to your heart.
Whether you take a trip far away or stay closer to home, travel can be incredibly refreshing. Seeing new sights, trying different cuisine, and getting out of your comfort zone can have a profound effect on your mental health.
During the school year, sleep can be at a premium for students and teachers alike. Summer is when you recover from staying up to grade papers! Take advantage of the break in the school year routine and rest up! Turn off your alarm clock and sleep late (whatever “late” is for your body clock) as often as you can. Catch up on well-deserved and needed sleep. Take naps, too. Naps are a great way to relax, recharge, and refocus on a hot day.
Spend time with friends and family
Long lunch dates, evenings out, family reunions – summer is prime time for all these things. Without the regular schedule of the school year to curtail your fun, you can spend lots of time with the people you love most. Take full advantage of it!
Make a wish list
Teachers spend a lot of their own money on school supplies for their students and classroom. Expo markers aren’t cheap and not everyone can afford to purchase the 5 folders, 5 notebooks, 2 boxes of Kleenex, markers, pencils, and the occasional calculator. Make a Wish List for items needed for your classroom and post it on your social media for friends and family to help out your classroom.
Ahh, the deliciousness of doing absolutely nothing! Take a few days to do all of the nothing you want. Linger with your morning coffee, stay in your pajamas, binge-watch TV, float in a pool, order take-out… whatever your “nothing” looks like, embrace it.
What NOT To Do
While it’s tempting to use the weeks between the end of one school year and the beginning of another to try to “get ahead,” try to resist that temptation. Working “off the clock” during summer break can mean you won’t really take the necessary time to rest and relax. The days and weeks of summer vacation will fly by quickly, and you’ll be setting up your classroom for the new year soon enough.
What about getting ready for the new school year? It’s perfectly acceptable to rearrange and redecorate your classroom during the summer. Taking the time to get organized can be very relaxing, especially when you can do it at a more leisurely pace. Just be sure, however, that your preparation time is balanced against the true goal of summer break: rest. It’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of doing “just one more thing” in your classroom until your day or week or summer passes you by.
Your classroom will be filled with new faces in the fall, and you owe it to them (and to yourself) to begin the year with a fresh perspective.
Enjoy your summer break!