After clawing our way to the end of the year, through the crush of last-minute activities and grades, we suddenly realize that we don't have to wake up early to get to school. It is a bit unnerving at first. We have been going 100 mph for nearly 200 days and now we can go 0 mph if we choose. It takes a few days to get our bearings because we are so used to the school schedule. But after a few days, our summer schedule emerges.
Getting away from school-related work is essential for balance. We have been so immersed in school for the past ten months that we are out of balance at the end of the year. We have to center ourselves and find other things that fulfill us. I constantly tell teachers that as soon as the school year is over, take a week of vacation or "stay"cation and do nothing school-related. We must put some distance between ourselves and our work for a while. That distance is essential for regeneration and recharging. The more time we stay away from school work, the more recharged we are when we return to school.
For many of us, there are books we've put off reading, places in town we've delayed visiting and vacations we have not taken. Summer is the time to do all of those things. Summer is the time to do a different kind of learning. The danger of not separating from school is real. I remember during my first two years teaching in my current district, I also taught summer school. The schedule gave me two weeks of summer vacation at best. I entered the new year beaten down, fatigued and listless. Those were difficult years. I did not benefit from that experience and my students paid the price because I was not at my best during those years.
I realize now that the time away from school is as important as the time in school. I still learn and experience new things during the summer, and those things eventually make it back to my classroom, but the learning is for personal fulfillment. After all, you cannot take care of others unless you take care of yourself. Summer is the time to take care of yourself, to relax and recharge, to dream and wonder, to have those "a-ha" moments while reading in the yard and to watch the ocean and realize the magnitude of the world in which we live. Summer fulfills our spirit and allows us to approach the new year invigorated, motivated and more driven than ever.
So many times during the summer, I've come across an idea that seems unrelated to school but winds up in class the next year. All learning is essential and all experiences shape who we are. I want to be a well-rounded role model for my kiddos. I want them to see that there is joy and learning everywhere. It will shape who they are as it shapes who we are as teachers. There is so much learning that occurs outside of school and we owe it to ourselves to use our summers to experience that learning.