Summer break seems to come out of nowhere. Logically you know it is coming, but with the breakneck pace of June it almost feels like an illusion. Then it happens; you realize, if you are a teacher, you will not be reporting to work for the next two months. And, if you are an administrator, you will have shorter work days, less crisis to deal with, and more time to think, plan, and learn. There is more family time for everyone, more time to spent as you see fit, and a much needed recharging of the batteries.
If you are not in the education field, you may begrudge teachers for what you see as a two month glimpse into retired life, but, for us in the field, we know when you do it right, you often leave it all on the field so to speak and need time to reinvent yourself for the challenge that the next school year and next group of students will bring.
No matter how much you love teaching or being an administrator, no matter how much you love kids, the challenge of changing lives, and/or of inspiring the next generation of leaders, you would be hard pressed to find an educator who doesn’t wish they could slow down the clock to make summer last just a little bit longer.
I do not claim to have a magic time machine or otherworldly power that can control time, but I do have some strategies that can help you get the most out of your summer recharge. These tips will prevent it from feeling like you put your head on your pillow late in June and wake up in late August with a few precious days left of your reprieve.
If you are like me, you hate those “Debbie Downers” who must perseverate on how quickly the time is going this summer. You see them the first week in July and they say, “wow, summer is flying already.” See them later in the month, “I can’t believe it is almost August already.” By the time August hits they have already stuck a fork in the summer and comment on the shorter and shorter nights.
I want to say enough already! Let’s enjoy each summer day as its own day! There is no reason a late August day can’t be just as much summer as a late June one. Don’t start the countdown; just enjoy each day for what it is. Try these tips to enjoy each and every summer day.
Tip 1- Create a Summer Bucket List
I used to panic come June, afraid that summer would come and go and I would not get everything in that I wanted to get in. So now, I create a summer bucket list of things that optimized summer for me and that I didn’t want to miss out on. Baseball games, a concert at Bethel Woods, a water park with the kids, a day at the beach, a book I wanted to read, a book I want to start writing, you get the idea.
Once I had my bucket list, I was able to calendar some of the events and my anxiety subsided. Experiences and breaks from the norm change our perception of time. By creating a bucket list you will help to ensure you do not fall into a pattern of the mundane where each day blends into the next, a surefire way to make “time fly.”
Tip 2- Create A New Habit
Take the time this summer to create a new habit. I suggest something that will help you get through the dog days of winter. Those times when the nights are long, sunshine is at a premium, your students are at their neediest, and you are questioning if you are making a difference. Creating a positive habit this summer that you can bring with you during those tough times will be invaluable. It can help you to gain a sense of accomplishment. Achieving a goal is another way to give summer a more dense feel. Some suggestions:
Meditate each morning for 10 minutes- Check out Headspace a simple guided meditation App.
Go for a walk for 20 minutes a day, bonus points for listening to a podcast on your walk. My favorite is Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell.
Start a gratitude journal that you keep on your nightstand and list three things you are grateful for before going to bed or upon waking up.
Listen to three songs, uninterrupted each day. Find a place you can be alone and undisturbed and just be with the songs. Listen to the words, the notes, the vibe. You will discover some amazing stories, notes, and escapes that you can revisit when you are feeling stressed during the year.
Tip 3- Read
Nothing says summer more than reading. It may be a trashy beach novel, a self improvement book, or a professional book that helps you get excited about your craft. Summer is a time to take a vacation into a great book. My problem has often been that there are so many good books that I can get overwhelmed and end up wasting away in Facebookville. A strategy that has helped me has been to decide what my next reads will be in the following areas:
- Personal growth
I read only those three books until finished or I decided the book is not for me and move on. This has helped me to stay focused and still gives me choice in what I read, depending on my mood. I also commit to reading a professional book for at least 15 minutes a day. I set the timer on my computer or phone and immerse myself in the book for those 15 minutes. I often find that I do more than one 15 minute session a day or that I keep reading beyond the 15 minutes, but the 15 minute commitment helps me to waste less time procrastinating in a fog of idleness and preventing time from slipping away without even realizing it is going. Some of my reads so far this summer:
I have so many more on my list, but hey it’s a long summer! If you haven’t read Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros that is great choice. I plan to revisit this masterpiece again this summer.
There are so many people who we value, who we respect, or who we just like being around that we lose touch with or can’t seem to find the time to spend time with during the hectic pace of day to day life. Summer is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with those people. Pick two to three people who you have not spent as much time with as you would like or that you have lost touch with. Take the time to call them, email them, send them a letter. Nothing slows down time more than human interaction with people we care about.
As an administrator, lunch during the year is often woofed down without even tasting the food, when I even have time to eat. This summer I am trying to go out for lunch at least one day a week with a friend, a colleague, or someone I haven’t seen in a long time. These encounters are often the highlight of my week. Being present with people without worrying about the next task just feels right.
Tip 5 – Day Trip
One of the things that gives my a pang of ache in my stomach is the realization that my three boys, who will all be in High School this year, no longer are as excited to go on family adventures as they were just a few short years ago. Some of my favorite days were day trips to Howes Caverns, Yankee Stadium, and The Bronx Zoo.
A day trip in the summer can seem like a hassle at times, too many hoops to jump through for a sweaty day waiting in long lines, but I have never regretted a day trip after we got there. Even the bad ones left great memories, great stories, and plenty of laughs. Go on adventures this summer, go with the kids, go with your spouse, go with your buddies, or just go with yourself. Check out all the strange and wonderful things that are within a two hour radius of where you live. The more adventures you experience the longer your summer will be!
Tip 6- Play the Notice Game
I started this exercise a few years ago during the holiday season. I always loved Christmas decorations, but as I got older the season seemed to go quicker and quicker. That’s when I started playing the notice game. Every time I was driving to work, or the store, or wherever, I tried to notice all of the Christmas decorations in detail. The game was much easier as a passenger, but I could still notice a lot while driving, especially at red lights. More recently I have expanded this game and played it on walks, in my yard, or while looking out the window at work. I pick some to “notice” for the day. Today, it was as many red flowers or plants that I could find. Some days it has been as many different birds as I can find, other days it is cars, or street signs, or sports hats. This game has help me to stay present in my day, to pay attention more, and to truly stop and smell the roses.
Tip 7- Learn something
There is so much to learn, to master, to discover, yet the problem again lies in the fact that it can be overwhelming. Try to pick one new skill to learn this summer. Try using the 15 minute timer again and commit to 15 minutes a day on your new skill. When we accomplish something that we committed to, rather than burying our heads in the phone, we get the most out of our time and it doesn’t see quite as fleeting. Some possibilities:
- Learn Spanish
- Write a blog
- Learn a tech tool
- Learn a new instructional practice
- Play the ukulele
- Master golf
Ok, no one ever really masters golf, but you get the idea. Put yourself out there and learn a new skill.
Tip 8- Do Something New
Do you ever wonder why as a little kid a year seemed like, as they say in Sandlot, to last “FOR-EV-ER!!!”? The four years of High School and four of college can hold so many memories, yet the last 10 teaching in the same room at the same school can seem to disappear in the blink of an eye? When we have new experiences, they are more memorable, time seems to last longer, we have stronger memories. When we are young everything is fresh and new and full of possibility.
As we get older, we know what we like, we don’t like to be inconvenienced, and we can see change as the enemy. I say slow down time this summer and, as Brenee Brown says, “Dare Greatly”, put yourself out there, and do different. It may be as simple as trying a new restaurant or it may be as daring as skydiving. Whatever it is you do this summer, do different. Have a new experience, have a new food, go on an exotic vacation, do different! You may not like it, you may love it, but either way you will be getting the most out of your time this summer when you do.
We are in what Florida Georgia line calls the sweetheart of summer. We have settled into the summer mode, the relaxation and good vibes of summer and its inevitable end is far enough away that the negative nellies are not yet signaling its impending doom. It is not too late, you have the opportunity to slow down your summer, to make the most of it.
From one educator to another–I know how hard you work; I know how you lay yourself on the line each and every day. You deserve a long summer that will get you ready to do battle and fight the good fight for our kids come September.