6 reasons teachers should plan (now) for a summer vacation

Sure, you have a few unpaid weeks each summer in which you’re not technically required to work. But that doesn’t mean you’re actually using your summer break to relax. Between second jobs, professional development, lesson planning, and more…those summer weeks just fly by, and many of us return to work in the fall without feeling like we’ve spent much time rejuvenating and enjoying time with the people we love.

I’m a big proponent of taking a real break at some point during the summer, and was discussing this recently with Pérsida Himmele. If you’re a long-time reader, you might remember her from my review of the wonderful book she co-wrote with her husband William called Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner. William & Pérsida both taught in K-12 schools and are now Associate Professors in the College of Education at Millersville University.

Pérsida says their family is determined to keep their no-work summers going for as long as they possibly can. Though she and William love working with pre-service teachers, they start saving, planning, and anticipating their summer months well in advance.

I really enjoyed hearing her perspective, and invited Pérsida to share the reasons why she believes teachers should start planning for summer fun now! Here are her thoughts:

The Himmele family’s best summer ever, biking on the beach at Hilton Head

This past summer, our family experienced what we unanimously referred to as the best summer of our lives. No kidding. We both teach in higher education and have usually had the summers off, but we did things a little differently last year. For starters, we made a conscious decision not to go to work. Then, we saved our pennies in order to spend several weeks on Hilton Head Island.

By the end of the summer, we both had the same reaction: “What took us so long?” We’ve been educators for over 25 years, and have chosen to work through every summer. Even when we weren’t teaching summer courses or compensated for our time, we’d still drag our kids into work and tinker away our time on fruitless efforts that still left us with more work to be done. And, it never failed, we’d start the year feeling as though we needed more time to prepare. This year nothing changed in terms of feeling like we needed more time, except that we felt no guilt over it.

What’s stopping YOU? Perhaps you’re not lucky enough to be married to an educator, or to someone with a flexible schedule. Or perhaps you don’t have the money or the free time to take several weeks off in the summer. What can you save? How much time can you afford? How much of a better vacation can you have? Instead of driving to the closest beach a few hours away, why not upgrade your vacation to something that you can only dream about? Sure, it’ll mean saving more time and money, but in the end, we think you’ll be happy that you made the effort. There’s even evidence that the effort itself might actually make you happier (see reason #1 below).

Teachers: here's why you should plan for a REAL summer break!

Here are six reasons why we think that educators should start planning–now–for a fantastic summer vacation:

1. Waiting makes you happy, and a happy educator is a nicer educator.

TIME Magazine published an article on how waiting actually makes you happy. In our case, this was absolutely true.  Not only did waiting make us happier, but saving for the waiting made us happier.  Spending less on needless items actually reminded us of summer.  Every penny we saved led to an anticipation of a better experience for which we were waiting.  Similar to the study referenced in the TIME article, waiting for the experience was more worthwhile than if we had been waiting to purchase a material possession. A week’s worth of an August rental at many beaches would set you back about $800, or about $20 per week during a school year.  Twenty dollars a week is worth a little happiness. Don’t you think?

2. #YOLO

For those who haven’t spent much time around middle schoolers, YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.” Seriously, you’re not getting any younger. What if we told you that you had a year to live? Wouldn’t you be somewhat bummed that you spent it working your fingers to the bone? You have no assurances that you’re going to live to a ripe old age, so work to make your “one of these days” happen sooner rather than later.

3. You’ll love your family more.

Our no-work summer led to memories with our kids that we will cherish forever. If you’ve been blessed with a family, spend time with them now. Spend money on them, now. Because when you die, they’ll get your money, but they may not have the awesome memories to go with that money. We know this from experience: Being left with awesome memories is much more fun than being left with a deceased relative’s money.

4. You’ll be old when you retire.

We used to talk about retirement as if we’d have these young and spritely bodies with which to surf and kayak and be immersed in activities that require the type of mobility that we just don’t see as representative of the typical retiree. We know retirees who could barely move when they finally up and left the job which had seemed to suck the very life out of them. Plan for all of that awesomeness now, because there’s a good chance that when you retire, all you’ll want to do is curl up with a good book, a cat, and a stable walker. (Just kidding. Not really.)

5. Teaching is an emotionally exhausting vocation.

As much as we love our students, we really believe that teaching is an emotionally exhausting profession. When it comes to teaching, there is so much at stake that after a long teaching day, we often spend too much time playing back everything we said to our students, over and over again. While a typical school year lasts for about 10 months, it is an exhausting 10 months. Face it, you’ve earned a vacation. You could spend the entire summer planning for the fall, or you could give yourself a much deserved break by treating yourself to a decent vacation.

6. You’ll start the year more refreshed and better able to take on major challenges.

We both noticed that this year, we’re focusing on the needs of our students more than we ever had in the past. When you’re feeling spent and tired, it’s hard to worry about the needs of your students. Our children have told us that they felt the same way. They were less stressed, more content, and more prepared to take on a new school year.

So there you have it– the best advice that we could possibly offer to educators. You want a better outlook on the rest of your school year? Start planning for summer.

How have you ever planned a no-work summer? How have you made time (and saved money) for a summer vacation? Got anything fun planned for this year? Please share your thoughts and any questions for Pérsida in the comments below. You can also connect with Pérsida on Twitter or Pinterest.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen March 4, 2015 at 10:09 am

Alas, as international educator, this is an even greater challenge. If I stay in country, then I’ve usually got lots of little projects to do, so I try to make a point of having at least one week where I’m out of the country, and not doing any school work (except my summer reading book club participation). If I head “home”, then it’s even harder. There are all those financial and legal and medical jobs that need to be done when I’m in the “home” country, as well as catching up with people I haven’t seen for a year or more (sometimes many years). It’s all good stuff, but it’s not a holiday. That’s why I’ve just book my airfare to escape for 3 nights in April during Khmer New Year. Even with study commitments, I just have to look after myself and if I stay home I tend to do school stuff or feel guilty. Yep, I’m looking forward to my mini-break, and hoping I can get another mini-break in over the summer (even if I am staying in someone else’s home while I do it). Life’s like that.

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2 Persida March 4, 2015 at 9:04 pm

Karen, I want your life:) How exciting! Still, good for you that you’re scheduling some time away… from being away.

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3 Cindy Dorsey March 5, 2015 at 4:32 am

I’m also an international educator, and I’ve had the good fortune to meet many Europeans, for whom the idea of an extended vacation is normal. Our family has been happily influenced by these friendships, and we’ve spent the last two summer vacations traveling. One summer, we spent 5 weeks in Greece, and the next, we wandered around the UK for 4 weeks, then spent one week with said European friends in Belgium. These experiences are so much more valuable to me than the money we spent on them! I agree, teachers must consider that summer break as time to breathe, and learn how to work to live instead of living to work.

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4 Persida March 5, 2015 at 10:04 am

“These experiences are so much more valuable to me than the money we spent on them!” I couldn’t agree more. Greece, Belgium, OK– Seriously, I want your life, too!!!

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