10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Break

Great Expectations
If you ran a marathon last week, your friends would expect you to take some downtime. Some time to rest and recover. It is expected you would need some rest.


If you just trekked across the desert for a month and struggled for lack of water and lack of food but you made it… people would also expect you to take time to rest and recover. It is expected you would need some rest.

Journey to the Light..

If you just came through a horrible bout of sickness and you were up for days unable to sleep. People would expect you to go off the grid for a while. To rest. To recover.

Why is it when teachers get out of school that everyone (even the teachers themselves) expect that they should immediately be able to conquer the world?


Don't we realize that we have just run a marathon? 
 A 10 month marathon including lack of sleep, in many cases missed lunches, and being pulled a million directions. Don't we realize that we have just trekked across a desert in some ways as we worked hard? Probably without much encouragement. Without much help. Not whining about it -but teaching can be a pretty lonely trek.

Don't we realize that in many ways we have been wounded? 
The struggles we have as teachers when students don't quite do what they need to do to be successful. Or the struggles we have at the end of the year when it is more fun for some kids to frustrate the teacher than to do those last few items?

Why on earth are we so hard on ourselves?
I'm hard on myself too. Here I am – it is Tuesday after I've gotten out of school on Friday. I had worked 12 days straight including Saturday and Sunday – the last four days I worked for around 18 hours a piece finishing up the graduation movie and here I am on Tuesday making a list a mile long and wondering why I'm so tired.

Saturday we fed 150 people at a family reunion and I didn't collapse into the chair until 7 pm Saturday night.

And yet, I'm sitting here telling myself it is summer so I should have my whole house clean, everything should be washed, and my kids should be up and ready to do their work.

Do all teachers push themselves like this? 
I think a lot of us do. We are listmakers by nature. Perfectionists by trade in a profession that pushes us to push others to be perfect.

Perfection is an illusion – if all our students are making a 100% then we aren't teaching anything new because they already know it. I'm looking at a list of 60 things I “need” to do today and want to run away to my bedroom, do a faceplant on my pillow and have a good cry.

I need a break. I need summer. And you do too.

10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Summer Break
I think right now as those of us in the northern hemisphere begin summer that we need to remember a few things (myself included):

  1. Take time to rest. It is OK to sleep if you're tired and are behind. Loss of sleep is cumulative so get back on track.
  2. Take time to remember. Breathe deeply and relish the good memories of the year. Learn from them.
  3. Take time to forget. Time to be a human for a little while and not a teacher.
  4. Have a few days without a list. OK, this is almost impossible for me and I'll have to probably do this in July but sometimes I need to be a human BE-ing not a human DO-ing.
  5. Take time to heal. Every summer as I tube down the stream in the mountains, I can almost see my own heart. It is wounded and bleeding. Not because anyone has “gone after” me but the sort of wounds like a tire feels when it has ridden too many miles without being replaced. The treads are gone. The summer is the time to retread our heart and soul so we can make it.
  6. Take time to learn. Reading is part of rejuvenation. Fiction and non fiction.
  7. Go offline for a while. Unplug. PUt on your vacation autoresponder that you're not answering email. If you have to blog or Tweet because that is what you do – schedule them ahead of time so you can go offline “guilt free.” But get away and unplug. I will be doing this very soon.
  8. Set realistic goals. We make “goal posters” for our summer with drawings and markers writing what we'd like to get done this summer. (We mark them off as we go.) Many of those things are places we will go and one or two things are what we'd like to accomplish. For me, I'll pick three goals for the summer. Three is a good number. If I get one done very early, I may add another.
  9. Work on one goal at a time. Start on the first goal and focus until you finish. Work on it every day.
  10. Look at Your Habits – Ninety five per cent of what you accomplish is your habits. By scheduling an appointment with yourself to do something, you take the thought that goes into working towards a goal. I set a time to work towards my goals in the summer. Blogging here is a habit. The thing about habits is you reap what you sow. If you can get one thing accomplished – GIVE YOURSELF A NEW HABIT. Whether it is working out, writing, or consistently pursuing a goal important to you. Your list may shape today but habits shape your destiny. Find good ones.

Summer or any break can be a great time. As you guessed, I probably err on the side of working too hard but I would say that when I play that I do that very well. I go offline in a fatal, nonexistent sort of way that some who work with me can get quite angry at. But I've found that when I go offline like that that I come back into things a lot more prepared and productive. My mental knife is sharpened.

I read somewhere that when they examine the super productive that they find that they do go offline and focus on one thing exclusively. They have the ability to focus and for me, that is what I try to bring to my summer. Focus. Focus on what is important. Taking time to unwind and rest.

Remember your noble calling. Give yourself the royal treatment this summer and get some rest. (I'll try too.)

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Keith Ozsvath May 31, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Thanks for giving me permission to slack-off!  Nice article and good tips.  Have a great summer!

coolcatteacher May 31, 2011 - 7:19 pm

Slack some! Get some new habits too (after you’ve rested.) I’m working a full day today in my home office! Need to listen to my own advice.

. mrsdurff June 1, 2011 - 1:13 am

Appointments – laughing too! Just had to make an appointment to go out to dinner with my teacher friend. She and I used to teach at the same school, and although we teach at different schools, we still enjoy each other’s company. Yes, had to have her write it down in her planner!

coolcatteacher June 1, 2011 - 5:36 pm

It is so hard to manage the time. It is good you’re taking time to reconnect with friends. That needs to be on the list too.

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