With the school year winding down, you may already be thinking about how to maximize your summer break. Teachers fill their summers in all sorts of ways: travel, jobs, professional development—the possibilities are endless. So, how can you make the most of your summer vacation so you can return to school refreshed, restored, and ready to roll again? Here's how some teachers plan to spend their summer vacations.
"This year our family vacation is in Cape Cod," says Andy M., a sixth-grade teacher. "And, like every summer, we leave as soon as school is out." Andy says that getting out of town early clears her head and starts the summer off right. "I admit it sometimes takes me a day or two to stop thinking about school, but the sun and the beach really help," she says.
Kaneisha V., a middle school French teacher, agrees that going on vacation at the beginning of summer sets the tone for the rest of her break. "If you go later in the summer, it's easy to fritter away the days just waiting for your vacation to arrive," she says. "This year, my friends and I are going to Montreal. It will be fun, and I'll get a chance to perfect my accent!"
High school math teacher Mike L. says that he and his family maximize the summer by taking trips to visit relatives. "It's a win-win," he says. "We can see people we haven't seen for a while and we have a place to stay if we want to do some sightseeing." Their first stop this summer will be visiting grandparents in Washington, D.C.
A Change of Pace
Lots of teachers use their summer breaks as a way to supplement their incomes. Your mind might leap to teaching-related positions—like camp counselor or private tutor—but many teachers prefer to do something completely different for seasonal work. For example, health teacher Lyle W. paints houses, which is something he's done for years. "House painting requires a lot of physical activity, which my teaching job doesn't. And basically, all I think about when I'm painting is whether the crew is doing a good job. It's kind of refreshing."
Further reading: 3 Ways to Score Discounted Summer Travel for Teachers
Lyle says the pay is excellent and he enjoys the camaraderie of his crew. "I usually take off the last couple of weeks of summer so that my family and I can take a real vacation together," he says. "And every year, when school starts, after a summer of painting I am ready to go back."
Betsy R., a special education teacher, waits tables at an upscale restaurant that caters to tourists during the summer. "The extra pay really augments my teaching salary and makes the school year easier financially," she says. And like Lyle, she likes that her summer job is vastly different from working with students. "I meet people from all over," she says. "It's fun and it's actually relaxing."
Staying Focused on the Classroom
While some teachers clear their summer schedules of school-related activities, others maximize their summers by working on curriculum, teaching summer school, attending conferences, or taking courses. They hope to come back in the fall with new ideas and a fresh outlook.
Jennifer T., a school psychologist, says that instead of going on vacation as soon as school is out, she signs up for any professional development being offered by the district or in the area. She points out that the extra hours of training can increase her salary, and says, "If I wait too long to do it during the summer I'll be 'out of the zone.'" Once she's taken the courses, Jennifer says she feels free to relax and enjoy the rest of the summer.
Robert N., an elementary language arts teacher, says, "I still need a few courses for permanent certification and I hope to get them out of the way this summer when I have a little more free time." Robert is opting to work on elementary curriculum for several weeks this summer, and plans to use the extra pay to attend the National Council of Teachers of English conference in Houston, Texas, next November.
But Rebecca J., who is just finishing her first year of teaching, has a different point of view. "No coursework for me this summer," she says. "I just need a little time to reflect on this past year. I learned so much, and I just need some downtime to process all of it."
Further reading: 9 Fun Summer Activities Under $10
History teacher Mykala S. says she accepted an offer to teach summer school. "The pay is good, and as a relatively new teacher, I can use the practice," she says. "And summer school only lasts six weeks, so I still have time for vacation."
Making the Most of Summer
While summer is chock-full of opportunities, it's not endless, so maximizing your summer takes a little planning before school is over. As one teacher told me, "If you don't plan what you want to do, you'll end up cleaning the garage or shopping online. You don't need to waste good summer days on that stuff!"
So whatever you decide to do, make sure it's rewarding and relaxing so you can clear your head and be ready for the challenges of the new school year.