After a long and exhausting—and did we mention fulfilling? (there’s really no other job with the emotional complexity of teaching, is there?)—school year, it’s finally summer break! That means it’s time for you to take some time to relax and recharge.
We’ve come up with a list of activities to take advantage of your time off and best utilize the part of your “vacation” that’s already earmarked for professional development activities. From the first day of summer vacation to the week before school starts, here are 12 things teachers can do over the summer to unwind!
1. Take a Full Weekend Off (Really)
The first weekend of summer vacation is spent finalizing grades and other student records, but the weekend after that should be a national holiday devoted to self-care for teachers. Until the rest of the country catches up on this, it’s up to us to start the tradition!
Take some time for yourself. Sleep in, go for a run, read your favorite book; whatever the perfect weekend is for you. Whether it’s a full day in the bath with a glass of wine, getting caught up on your Netflix shows or ordering pizza and playing video games, doing something that has nothing to do with work can help your brain shift into summer mode.
2. Call a Friend
Work can become all-consuming during the school year, and it can be easy to fall out of touch with people we don’t see every day. It’s important to reach out and nurture those relationships that tend to fall off our radar in our busy day-to-day lives. Reach out to friends and family, have a chat or make plans to do something fun.
Remember to prioritize the relationships that make you feel affirmed and supported and minimize interactions that make you feel emotionally drained. Part of being able to recharge is about being aware of where your energy is going and how to manage your energy more effectively.
3. Make a Plan
We all work with our students on this pretty frequently, and it bears remembering: You’ll get more done in less time if you invest a little bit of time up front planning. This can be as specific and detailed as you want, anything from daily schedules to a series of objectives you want to complete before the end of summer.
Personally, we’re partial to lists. We like keeping lists of summer books to read, adventures to have, preparations for the next school year and lists of professional and personal development goals to focus on this summer. It’s also a convenient time to take a look at any of your long-term plans, see where you are, reevaluate or reconsider your goals and add on anything else you want to start working on.
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4. Spend Time Outside
Summer vacation is the perfect time to go outside and enjoy the wonders of nature. We know that it can be difficult to find time to spend outdoors during the school year (what with all the grading and lesson planning and such), but that’s precisely why we have summer break!
Whether you prefer to walk your dog in the mornings, ride your bike in the late afternoons, or take your family to the park for a picnic or a day full of fun, allowing your body to soak up the sunshine (while wearing plenty of sunscreen, of course!) is an excellent way to recharge your batteries and reset your brain before the school year starts in the fall.
Our students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from daily mindfulness practices. Adults also need to regularly use the skills we teach in social-emotional learning curriculums. Any mindfulness activity intended for children can be used just as effectively by adults if the activity is approached with an open mind and a willingness to learn from the experience.
People who regularly practice daily mindfulness tend to report feeling more rested, less overwhelmed by stressful situations and better able to effectively utilize their time to complete the goals they set for themselves.
Mindfulness techniques are becoming increasingly more accessible, with no shortage of information online, including video courses and apps explaining how different mindfulness activities are done in a way that makes sense to both beginners and experienced practitioners.
Some good activities to try to start practicing mindfulness include daily affirming guided meditation, gratitude journaling or morning pages and learning to become aware of how stress affects your body.
6. Advanced Mindfulness: Try an Analog Weekend
Celebrate the summer and party like it’s the 90s—by which we mean turn off your phone, unplug the internet and read a book or go enjoy the outdoors! (What? That’s how we were partying in the 90s! What were the rest of you doing?)
In all seriousness, multiple studies show participants reporting significant emotional and psychological benefits from spending less time online and being more mindful of the content they regularly consume.
While you’re taking a technology break, pay attention to the times you reach for your phone and why you did that. Did you feel bored by what you were doing? Did you want to search for more information about a topic you were reminded of? Did you just want to be doing something else?
All of those things are okay! Just keep making mental notes as you go. When you get to the end of your technology break, consider whether there are any long-term changes you want to make in the future regarding the ways you use and interact with technology.
Some potential changes you might consider include taking regular technology breaks (as life allows), pausing movies and shows when using your phone instead of doing both at once and limiting/scheduling time for using social media.
7. Spring Cleaning
We’re all familiar with the steadily decreasing standards we apply to our homes during the school year: It all starts out fine, but then as the year goes on and the workload increases, we organize a little less and tolerate the clutter a little more. Now’s your chance to get everything organized for the new year!
Whether you go in with the KonMari method in mind or you just really want to see things organized properly again, having everything the way you want it to be means you’ll experience fewer micro-stressors during your everyday activities. This will lead to a more relaxed state of mind overall. Plus, the earlier you get ready for the new school year, the less effort you’ll have to put in last minute to get everything ready on time.
8. Practice a Hobby
Do you have a creative pursuit or a physical challenge that you find personally fulfilling but that you can’t fully devote yourself to during the school year? If you do, maybe summer is the perfect time to write your novel, knit a baby blanket for a friend or run a marathon!
Even if it’s been a while since you’ve engaged with your hobby, it’s never too late to start again as long as it’s something you enjoy. Reminder to be kind to yourself when you’re starting something new—and all the time—because as long as you’re doing something you like, that’s the point of having a hobby.
Can you imagine what it would be like to have enough time to read a book? An entire book? For fun? Congratulations, it’s summer, and you can be someone who has enough time to read a book—no, someone who has time to read books (plural!).
This is another situation where lists can be extremely helpful. Having a list of the books you want to read over the summer can make your book pile less intimidating and ensures you won’t forget the title of a fascinating recommendation. For extra credit, start a book club with friends so you’ll have someone to talk to about your summer reads, or keep a reading journal to collect more personal reflections about the books that resonate with you.
It’s also important to give yourself permission not to finish a book. Your reading time is valuable and you shouldn’t push yourself to spend it on something you’re not getting anything out of. Come back to the book another time and see if it hits differently or just move on and don’t give it another thought.
10. Bake or Cook Something New
Between ready-to-cook meals and takeout, following a recipe is becoming a dying art. Impress your friends and shock your family by finding a recipe for something you’ve always been curious about but never tried to make. Maybe you’ll learn the secret to perfect French macarons or how to make authentic Vietnamese pho—or perhaps get together with some friends and try out some of their favorite recipes!
11. Exercise with Friends
There are plenty of health benefits to regular exercise, and you don’t have to go too crazy! As little as twenty to thirty minutes of moderately challenging exercise can make a difference. If you exercise regularly and want to do more, make time in your summer schedule to add a new challenge, like barre training or learning a jump rope routine.
If you don’t exercise regularly and want to build a regular routine, find an activity that fits into your schedule easily and try to find a friend who’s also interested in that activity. If you don’t have time to exercise at all during the school year and want to start, begin with something simple like taking a walk around the block to add more steps to your day.
12. Look at Lesson Plans
Consider blocking out some free time to focus specifically on lesson planning for next year. Talk with your teacher friends about new teaching techniques and best practices, sourcing new classroom activities, getting familiar with the things that are popular with your students’ age group and looking up new strategies to best address both new issues and recurring issues children are grappling with.
If you’re interested in doing an exciting, collaborative project with your class next year, like making a community art piece or creating a classbook, get the information as early as possible so you can more easily coordinate any necessary logistics. In the case of a classbook, simply sign up for your free classbook publishing kit to get started (you can order the kit at any time to familiarize yourself with the process with no obligation).
For lesson plans, worksheets, writing prompts and other helpful creative writing resources for your classroom, check out our online Teacher’s Lounge and be sure to sign up for your free classbook publishing kit. Just make sure to take it easy this summer!