graduate school

In Defense of Doing Nothing This Summer

Disclaimer: Sorry for all you poor souls who teach year-round. You can disregard this post.

“I’d let someone punch me for nine straight months if it meant I got two months off,” a friend of mine has said to me. For many teachers, that is what it feels like: Nine months of getting punched in the face (metaphorically, but if you’ve really had a bad year, literally). I was one of the lucky ones. My cousin was taken aback when, a couple days after school ended, I answered “It’s been pretty great, actually” to her “How was the end of the school year?” She figured most teachers are pulling their hair out. For me, the end was joyous and not that stressful. One of my students in my “family” graduated, and I got to take a group of kids to Boulder to go hiking. There wasn’t much drama, and I got enough done during our work day to throw in the towel and not have to bring anything home for now.

I don’t have the post-end-of-the-year aftershocks like I have had at the end of school years before; maybe I’m just getting better at being resilient and knowing what to let go. My “it is what it is” attitude, for better or worse, is very refined at this point. I actually felt like “Ok, what next? What new learning for myself can I get my hands on?” But then I stopped that thought and deliberately decided that, for two months, I am going to do absolutely no work, trainings, or anything related to teaching. I have checked the SAT scores of my kids because I’m curious. And I looked at my email a couple times. But that’s it.

A few years ago, a very successful and seasoned teacher said to me: “In the summers, I live it up. I don’t do anything related to school.” Back then, I wondered how to become a great teacher and not use that valuable free time in summer. What’s better—read that new book about differentiation, or watch twelve hours of Orange is the New Black? (Answer: I have not only watch the whole OITNB season, but also the new House of Cards. Winning!) There really is so much free time (at least for me, because I have no kids 🙂 ) I felt very guilty if I didn’t devote it to getting better at teaching.

If you follow other teachers on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media, you probably see posts of the ISTE conference, the AVID trainings, twitter chats, etc. Being part of the blogging world, I see teachers (and people who aren’t) all wrapped up in sharing ideas rampantly on Twitter. I figure that’s a small percentage of the teaching workforce. But it doesn’t seem like it; it seems to like everyone else is more devoted or amped about education than those of us who choose to sit back and do nothing. It’s like FOMO, but for teaching. If that’s a thing. Am I alone in this feeling?

Being introverted, you’d think I’d love to connect with people about teaching through social media because I don’t have to actually talk to them. But that’s not the case. It actually stresses me out and makes me feel like if I’m on the internet, I can’t divide life and work. I don’t want work to pervade my screen time. It’s all or nothing for me, most of the time.

I don’t know how my situation compares to the majority of teachers across the country. I sympathize with the “teachers do work a lot in the summer” sentiment, and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this Atlantic article for some perspective. It seems that a lot of schools vary in their expectations of what teachers do, basically, for free. I said no to attending two trainings this summer sponsored by my district (of which I could use for re-licensing hours), and two paid summer school teaching type positions for extra duty income. I am painfully aware that many teachers need the money, and they’ll do the extra work. Living in Denver, my colleagues need that extra money to pay for the ‘extras’—vacation, kid’s sports fees, etc. I could write a whole other post about this. I may have to change my ‘no-summer-work’ policy in the future, depending on my financial situation.

But for now, I do nothing. I am enjoying (save this blog post) taking a break from blogging, immersing myself in other things I like doing and learning about, and catching up with family. Take care of yourselves, teachers. Summer is sacred. Say no to the not required trainings. Go outside. Avoid the education book aisle. (Playfully) Scorn your work friends who bring up work (shout out to my work friends who playfully scorn me, ILY). I am also starting graduate school (Curriculum and Instruction: Reading and Writing–holla!) at the University of Colorado-Denver this fall, so I guess you could say I’m banking the R&R now in preparation. Winter is coming. You can bet between that, National Board, and teaching full time, I’ll be writing something related to keeping my head up through it all.

Also: Special shout-out to my husband, who just finished a three year-long medical residency and is now an independently practicing doctor. I have been relieved of the burden of relaxing enough for the both of us 😛 ❤

What do you think, teachers? What’s your philosophy during summer? Can you split your time effectively between new learning and rest, or are you more like me—all or nothing? Let me know your thoughts!

-SB