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Here's What Teachers Really Do During Their Summer Breaks

A hand emerging from the covers of a bed while holding a hammer prepares to smash an alarm clock.

Find some days this summer when the only tool you’ll need is a pillow.

It might surprise some students to learn that their teachers look forward to summer breaks as much as—maybe even more than—they do. No longer are we subject to rigorously regimented days; we're free to do things like use the bathroom whenever we need to and wear pants as little as we want. Summer breaks mean we don't have to plan every minute of an eight-hour school day—and can day-drink if we want to.

Further Reading: 9 Stress Management Strategies Every Teacher Needs to Know

Our summers are much like our students': a three-month blank slate just waiting to be filled with exciting shenanigans. Sure, some teaching habits die hard, but if you ask the average educator how he or she spends the summer, it'll likely look something like this.

Stay Up Late and Sleep In

During the school year, teachers have to turn down social events when they happen on school nights. You might have even heard the phrase "I can't. That's past my bedtime." come out of your mouth at one point or another.

Come summertime, all bets are off. We get nuts at night and sleep until we can sleep no more in the morning! OK, fine—we stretch it to 11 p.m. and wake up at the same time out of habit. But at least there's no alarm?

Travel

Many of us fit vacations with out-of-town friends and visits to relatives into our summer plans. But because we have a tough time taking off our teacher hats, our travels tend to be very organized—and we usually plan activities throughout the trip to engage and educate our families. We also make notes and take pictures of the things we see and experience so that we can share them with our students in the fall. Oh, and we text our colleagues the great ideas that our trips inspire, too. But yeah, we travel.

Relax

Relaxation is a relative term. Many of us have children of our own, who are also on summer break, and that adds a level of responsibility to our day. But for the most part, we try to take advantage of the readily available opportunities to relax during the summer.

For instance, reading in the warm sunshine is super relaxing—until the kids start fighting and tattling. Attending a baseball game is a great way to spend a family day—until the kids want another $10 snack. Packing a picnic lunch and heading to a beautiful park is incredibly peaceful—until the kids are bored and whining to go home. (There are teachers who manage to enjoy these activities sans interruptions and outbursts of "She's breathing on me!" I am not one of them.)

Work

It's true: Many teachers use their summer breaks to revamp curriculum, update classroom activities, or attend classes for their certification. Some even have summer jobs; online teaching, tutoring, and counseling are some of the best summer side hustles, The Balance Careers says. But the beautiful thing about working over the summer is that we do it on our own terms—sometimes even poolside. That's at least sort of a vacation, right?

Pursue Hobbies

It'd likely come as a shock to our students to learn that educators have hobbies that don't have anything to do with the subjects they teach. And summertime is when we get to sink our teeth back into them.

Some of us golf, play tennis, or swim; others garden, cook, or play in a band. Our summer breaks allow us to reconnect with our nonteaching passions, and that refuels us for the upcoming school year. Time spent out of the classroom is vital to success inside it; we need to fill our souls with whatever creative, physical, or spiritual endeavor inspires and motivates us. We are, after all, only human.

Further Reading: 3 Student Success Stories to Reaffirm Your Love of Teaching

Not that our students would understand that. To most of them, we teachers are mysterious beings with mysterious lives; what we do during our summer vacations is downright unfathomable. But for those glorious few months when we're traveling with our families or taking a tennis lesson, we're just like everyone else.

At least until school starts up again.