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It’s Summer Vacation. Here Are 5 Things Every Teacher Should Do

As the days get warmer, the sun sets a little later (and the kids get more wild in your classroom) every teacher knows that summer vacation is just around the corner.  Yes, those magical months where you get time to yourself and aren’t rushing to the bathroom before the bell rings.  But how do you get the most out of your summer break?  Are you the type of teacher who has a list with everything on it?  Or are you the teacher who wants to step away from planning for a while and let whatever happens happen each day? 

Regardless, if you focus on these 5 things during your summer vacation, you will be feeling your best and ready for the new school year that will arrive before you know it.

Teachers Need To Rest During Summer Vacation

Chances are that you have been going at full speed these past few months.  Between state testing windows, extra planning for the end of the year, and having to double down on classroom management (kids always come back from spring break and have forgotten all we’ve worked on since the Fall), it’s safe to assume you are exhausted.  This is why I always put rest at the top of the list.

Summer vacation is the perfect time to relax

Chances are you haven’t been sleeping enough, and when you are sleeping, it might not be quality sleep.  As someone who spent their first 15 years teaching waking up at 4am to go to the gym before work, I couldn’t understand why I hit a plateau on my fitness and I kept getting sick.  Luckily, I got wiser as I got older.  And now I am constantly getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night instead of 6 or less.  I am such a fan of the power of sleep that now I even show the TED Talk “Sleep Is Your Superpower”  to my classes. The reality is that summer vacation is a perfect time to get back on a healthy sleep routine.  Try to get to bed 3-4 hours after you eat dinner and let your body reset itself as it prepares for tomorrow.  A few weeks on consistently good sleep will pay dividends and help your body return to functioning at its highest potential.

Make Plans To Explore New Places Over Summer

Summer vacation is a perfect time to vacation.  But “vacation” can mean different things to different people.  While some people want to get in a car or on a plane for a vacation, others might want to visit their own local area.  The first thing to decide is what sounds enjoyable to you. The second thing is to prioritize how much you want to spend and where you want your money to go.  And finally, you can begin to map out a trip itinerary of what you want to see and do.

Our family began summer vacation with a trip to Disneyland.

But what if traveling isn’t in the plans right now?  Chances are there is plenty to do near where you live.  Where are some great summer activities you can do as a day trip or staycation?  Maybe there is a place within a few hours drive you have heard about but haven’t made the time to visit.  Summer vacation can be a great time to explore places near and far.

Summer Break Is the Perfect Time To Unwind

Do you need a few days to just relax and just lounge around your house?  The truth is we all do.  Maybe it’s just reading that book you bought a few months ago but haven’t had time to start.  Or maybe you have a few projects around your house or yard waiting for you to work on.  For some people just watching a series on Netflix or HBO Max can be the necessary distraction they need.  

Too often we live in this “go, go, go” society and we look down on making the time to unwind as if we are being lazy.  This couldn’t be further than the truth.  As teachers our minds are working 24/7/365.  You could be in the grocery store and your mind is still on the lesson you taught earlier in the day.  I recently came home at 5:30 on a Friday evening and my wife (she is also a teacher) was helping a parent on the phone who’s daughter is struggling in middle school.  Our brains don’t just shut off at the end of the school day.  Which is why we need to set aside time to just unwind and not think about school.

Teachers Need To Recharge During Summer Vacation

It might sound contradictory after I just said we need to unwind, but summer is a great time to recharge our health.  I’m not a fan of the words diet and exercise, but instead I like to talk in terms of nutrition and fitness.  The reality is that we only get one body.  And while modern medicine has come a long way, the best way to not get sick is to stay healthy.  During the school year we tend to let some things slide.  Maybe we have to shorten our workouts or we miss some workouts altogether.  Likewise, it can be hard to make our nutrition a priority as consistently as we’d like during the school year.  Even when we plan out our meals for the week there are some nights when we simply run out of time to prepare dinner and we need to find something quick, even if it’s not the healthiest option.

During summer break we have enough time to get back on track.  Start by sitting down and mapping out when you are going to set aside 45-60 minutes every day to move your body.  And yes, I do mean every day.  If you are in need of some structure and guidance, I would be happy to help.  But for most people, it’s simply a matter of blocking out the time to get in the gym or on the trail.  Personally, I like to lift weights 4-5 times a week for about an hour.  I try to get in the pool or on the bike we have at home for 30-45 minutes for cardio.  And then I get out and walk with a weighted vest or backpack on my “rest days” 1-2 times a week.  

Like exercise, healthy eating starts with a plan.  Danielle is really good at this for our family.  Every Sunday she maps out dinners for the following week.  We factor in what we have in the freezer and what the kids want, but from there it’s just a matter of writing down what we are making and who is in charge of cooking it for that night (honestly, I only cook 1-2 nights a week and she takes care of the rest).  Having a plan for dinners also helps us keep our food bill lower while making sure we are eating more real foods and less processed junk. I generally try to grill 1-2 nights a week during the summer. My Huli Huli chicken is always a family favorite.

Summer Is When Teachers Can Reflect And Plan

Without the daily stress of teaching, there is time to both reflect on the past school year and also plan for the future.  Honestly, this is not something you need to do the first week of break.  Maybe wait a couple of weeks and you have made time to both rest and recharge.  There are no deadlines for turning in lesson plans or emails that need to be replied to quickly.  But this is an area where a little time invested over the summer can make a huge impact when you return to school in the Fall. 

If you are teaching the same subject or grade next year, this time can be spent going through your units and pacing guide to see what you want to keep, what you want to modify, and what you want to get rid of.  If you are teaching something new, this is a good time to research the curriculum, review the material, and check out blogs for ideas on best practices to cover the content.Again, it doesn’t have to get done in a week.  But a few hours blocked out here or there will set you up for success.

Final Thoughts…

Congrats again on the completion of another school year.  You made it!  Enjoy this time away from your classroom and be sure to make yourself the priority this summer.  Hopefully these ideas will get you started in the right direction towards making the most of your summer vacation.

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