Believe it or not, not every teacher is part of the conga line of celebration in anticipation of summer break. In fact, some teachers find themselves bored, unsettled or even experiencing depression with all that unstructured free time.
Elizabeth L. recently wrote in to our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE with this question: “I can’t be the only one who dreads summer break! On one hand, it’s necessary for me to be away from school for a while to clear my head, but I start going crazy after about a week! Does anybody have any ideas for what I could do?”
Lots of teachers chimed in with their support.
“This is so me,” wrote Kashia P. “I love an extra day or two of downtime, but summer is too long. I get so depressed and lazy.”
“Me too!” wrote Jill J. “I fall into a funk about a week or two into summer break because my routine and structure are completely out of whack.”
“I have lots of things I could be doing. I just don’t have the motivation to since I don’t HAVE to. There’s nothing to prepare for or to hurry up and get done before school. It’s just whatever. LOL.” —Lynn D.
Luckily, the teachers on our HELPLINE community came up with this whopper list of suggestions. Hopefully, you’ll find an idea or two that will help make your summer break a restful, rejuvenating, meaningful experience.
“I volunteer like crazy. I cook for a free meal program for families in our community for a week, I go on a mission trip. This year I’m helping with a camp for an urban community, I’m in charge of crafts for our church’s VBS. I lead a middle school group on Sunday mornings. I plant a garden. I’m presenting at two PDS.” —Holli A.
You can search for local volunteer opportunities here or visit the websites of local organizations. Among the many ideas of places that may be looking for volunteers:
- Food banks
- Animal shelters
- Homeless shelters
- Mission trips
- Camps for urban kids
- Places of worship
- Meals on Wheels
- Local hospitals
- Galleries or museums
- Nursing homes or rehab centers
- Habitat for Humanity
“Try professional development. There are many free, good workshops that most districts or unions offer. Try your PDC course catalogue. It is great because you gather many new ideas for the next school year. I do three to four days a summer, but there are many opportunities for more.” —Lynn S.
Other ways to keep your focus on teaching and professional growth:
- Explore Twitter chats for educators.
- Build or maintain a class website.
- Start a teacher blog.
- Research classroom grants for next year.
- Teach at a community college.
- Teach summer school.
- Start coursework for your advanced degree.
- Check this list for more unconventional PD ideas.
- See if your admins will spring for a teacher conferences.
Find Other Work
“I used to sign up with a temp agency and do mostly clerical work a few days each week. It was easy but something different from what I did the rest of the year, and I made a little spending money.” —Ginger A.
- Look for a seasonal job like working at a greenhouse, as a lifeguard, or as summer nanny.
- Teach a class at your local recreation center-—something low pressure that lets you have fun and just enjoy kids.
- Work for VIPKIDS.
- Think outside the box: “I’m working as an extra for a film company.” —Lydia L.
- Check out companies that hire teachers in the summer.
Fill Yourself Up
“Just relax! Your brain really needs to disengage a bit! Guilt-free!” —Carol B.
- Get a pool pass and lounge in the sun.
- Read (for pleasure).
- Do puzzles.
- Visit family and see if you can help out in a way you cannot during the school year.
- Sign up for 5ks—it doesn’t matter if you walk or run, it gives you an event to train for and look forward to.
- Go to the library and browse for hours.
- Window-shop—visit one new establishment a day.
- Join a book club.
- Seek out a craft or sewing group.
- Go for walks and take along a sketch pad.
- Have a picnic with friends or family.
- Work out at a new gym and try new classes.
- Go to the beach and watch the seagulls soar.
- Binge-watch all the shows you missed during the school year.
- Love on your pets.
- Nap freely.
- Fall down the black hole that is Pinterest.
- If you received gift cards as thank-yous from your students, go on a shopping spree!
Try New Things
“Summer is a great time to try new things!” —Kara B.
- Try new recipes.
- Learn to knit.
- Try water aerobics.
- Be a food critic.
- Go on a writing retreat.
- Start a personal blog.
- Learn a new language—there are free apps for that.
- “Do you have a dog? My dog and I are a pet therapy team with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. We provide cheer to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, the Ronald McDonald house, etc. The volunteering jobs are endless with pet therapy.” —Denise A.
- “Go geo-caching.” —Sandra H.
- “I’m an extreme couponer! It’s not that hard—just takes some research and practice.” —MaLia D.
“Travel is essential! Take day trips in every direction! Don’t plan too much, just travel in one direction for 3 hours, see where you are and sightsee.” —Merchelle K.
- Explore the local parks and trails—get a map from the city and try to hit every single one.
- “Just get on a train and go somewhere.” —Susan M.
- Go to a cabin and relax by the lake.
- Lots of places offer teacher travel discounts
- Craft a low-cost staycation.
- Call those out-of-town relatives and see if they’re hankering for some company.
- Visit a Disney park—they offer great teacher discounts.
- Nanny for a family that needs a travel companion.
- Check out Airbnb for affordable room rentals in other cities.
- Sign up for a mission-work trip—see a new place and do some good work.
Consider a Change
Finally, if you try a few things from this list and just can’t pull out of your funk, consider the advice of fellow teachers who have been there.
“If summers really get to you, have you considered teaching somewhere year-round? Personally, I miss having summers off, but it could be a good option for you.” —Laura D.
“I’ve done both—traditional and year-round. Year-round is WAY better—five-week summer, rest, refresh, return.” —Lisa S.
About the Author
Elizabeth Mulvahill is a Contributing Editor with WeAreTeachers. She has taught elementary, literacy and small group intervention. She currently resides outside of Boulder, Colorado and loves learning new things, hearing people's stories and traveling the globe.
When Summer’s a Bummer: 50+ Things to Do if You’re a Teacher Who Dreads Summer Break