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How to Enjoy a Stress-Free Summer Break: A Guide for Teachers

    how to enjoy a stress free summer

    Want to enjoy a stress-free summer? If there’s anyone who deserves to rest, relax, and reset over the next couple of months, it’s you! Learn my best tips to make the most out of your summer break while keeping that summer anxiety at bay.

    If you’re starting your summer break feeling a mix of exhausted and ecstatic, you’re not alone.

    End-of-the-school-year stress is real, between the rush of wrapping up the school year, working through grading that pile of final projects and essays, and cleaning out your classroom. But you did it! And if there’s one thing I want to be sure of, it’s that you don’t take that end-of-year stress into the summer.

    While not every teacher’s “ideal summer” is the same, I think we can all agree that finding the balance between relaxation and productivity can be challenging. That’s why I’ve put together some of my best tips for helping you relax, unwind, and reset over summer break so you can feel rejuvenated and start getting ready for the year ahead (when the time comes—no need to rush the summer away).

    Start By Closing Out the Current School Year

    Before you enter full-blown “summer mode,” consider the following tips to help you close the chapter on the past school year.

    1. Reflect on the Year

    Before diving into summer, take time to reflect on the past school year. I’m not suggesting you spend your summer revamping your curriculum or anything, but it might be a good time to start thinking about one or two areas that you may want to improve or refresh before next year. Think about what worked well and what you want to change for the upcoming year. While you don’t have to get caught up in any lesson planning or making changes just yet, it’s nice to jot down a few thoughts while they’re fresh on your mind.

    Document these reflections in a journal or even jot down a few notes on your phone to revisit later. Not only will this reflection process help you find closure with the current year, but it will be a great springboard as you start planning for the upcoming year.

    2. Organize and Clean Your Space

    For many teachers, back-to-school anxiety is realer than real. Help your future self out by leaving your classroom and workspace clean and organized. Clear out old papers, take down your bulletin boards, and organize teaching supplies and materials. All in all, ensure everything has a place before officially shutting your door for the summer. It might sound cliché, but having a tidy space can provide a sense of closure and make returning to your classroom in the fall a little less daunting.

    3. Celebrate Accomplishments

    No matter how much you love your job, I think we can all agree that teaching is hard work. Before switching gears into summer mode, take a moment to recognize and celebrate your achievements from the past year, big and small. Whether it’s student successes, new teaching methods you tried, or professional development milestones, acknowledging these accomplishments can boost your morale and provide a positive end to the year while planting the seeds for an optimistic start to the next one.

    Prioritizing Summertime Self-Care for Teachers

    After closing the chapter of the school year, it’s time to jump fully into summer mode! And part of that is prioritizing self-care for teachers. With teacher burnout on the rise, it’s more important now than ever to use the summer break to rest and recharge.

    3. Rest and Recharge

    Speaking of resting and recharging, that’s the first tip on the summer self-care to-do list! After spending the last nine months tackling a never-ending to-do list, pressing pause and letting yourself relax can be easier said than done. However, teaching is a demanding profession, and you need time to recover. Rest is crucial for your mental and physical health, so prioritize sleep and give yourself permission to do nothing if that’s what you need.

    4. Prioritize You

    During the school year, it’s easy to feel like you make time to prioritize everyone’s needs—except your own. Summer is the time to shift the focus back on you. Make it a priority to set time aside to do something for yourself. Whether it’s booking a spa day, practicing daily meditation, or getting into a fitness routine, use this time as an opportunity to say yes to more things that make you happy

    5. Spend Time Outside

    While summer might be a great time to catch up on your favorite binge-worthy TV show, get outside, too. I’m not making this up—research has shown that nature has a calming effect and can significantly reduce stress levels. Whether you’re someone who loves to hike, hit the beach, or simply sit by the pool, find ways to spend time outdoors. Go for a casual stroll through the neighborhood or enjoy a picnic in the park. Whatever activity you choose, fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for your physical and mental health.

    6. Explore Your Hobbies

    Between pinning ideas on Pinterest, scouring Teachers Pay Teachers for resources, and revamping lessons again and again, it’s easy to feel like teaching is your job and hobby.  However, summer is the perfect time to reconnect with hobbies and interests you may have set aside during the hustle and bustle of #teacherlife. Whether it’s painting, gardening, playing an instrument, cooking, or something else, do more of it! Or hey, maybe now is the time to dive into that hobby you’ve always wanted (but never had the time) to try.

    7. Read for Pleasure

    Summer is your time to thrive, fellow book lovers! If feels like reading is something you do as a “task” rather than a pleasure these days, it’s finally time to dive into those books that have been collecting dust on your bedside table. Pick up that novel you’ve been wanting to read, explore new genres, or dive into some high-interest young adult literature. Who knows? You might even find new books to add to your classroom library!

    8. Practice Setting Boundaries

    Many teachers struggle with setting boundaries during the school year, continuously adding to their (ever-growing) to-do list. It’s no wonder why so many teachers find themselves on the brink of burnout! However, getting better at setting boundaries (and learning to say “no” when you need to) can help. Use the summer to practice this skill. Start by saying yes to more things out of desire over obligation (or guilt). Setting clear boundaries and sticking to them over the summer will help you maintain a healthier work-life balance when the school year begins. 

    Planning for the Year Ahead

    I’m a proponent of embracing summer break as, well, a break from the demands of the teaching profession. However, I also know that end-of-summer-anxiety and back-to-school-scaries affect a lot of teachers. The next few tips can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed when the new school year comes.

    9. Set Goals

    As the summer winds down, it’s time to revisit that end of year reflection. Use your notes to help you set goals for the upcoming school year. These can be professional goals, such as implementing a new teaching strategy, or personal goals, like maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Then, jot down a few action items or steps you can take to make it happen. Setting the intention and laying out a few actionable ideas will help you stay focused and find success with your goals in the new school year.

    10. Get Inspired

    While you might have ended the school year feeling drained, it’s essential to enter the new school year feeling excited and inspired. Dedicate a few hours here and there to reading your favorite education blogs, exploring resources Teachers Pay Teachers, and scrolling through Pinterest for new activities and teaching strategies. I know it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole here, so be sure you don’t get too caught up. Set a timer for an hour or two to ensure you are still taking time for yourself this summer.

    11. Revisit Your Resources

    Now that you have some new goals and inspirations, take time to revisit and update your teaching resources. Review lesson plans, worksheets, and other materials. Identify what needs to be refreshed or replaced. This will make the start of the school year smoother and more organized. However, don’t feel like you need to tackle all the updates at once. Choose a few resources or lessons to revamp ahead of the new year—the rest can wait.

    12. Rethink Grading

    As ELA teachers, it’s easy to feel like the “to grade” pile never ends. However, during the hustle and bustle of the school year, it’s easy to succumb to old habits and grading strategies. That’s why the summer is the perfect time to consider ways to streamline your grading process. This could involve using more rubrics, implementing peer reviews, scaffolding your grading, or exploring new technologies that can help you grade essays and assignments more efficiently.

    13. Dip Your Toes into Planning

    I’m not suggesting you spend your entire summer planning the upcoming school year. However, it can help ease stress as the first days of school approach if you know what you are planning to teach. Take some time in those final summer weeks to start thinking about how you are going to kick off the new school year. Consider icebreakers, back-to-school learning stations, and lessons that will excite and motivate your students.

    Bonus Tip: If you’re feeling up for it, you can take your planning one step further and develop a set of “recipes” that will make lesson planning a breeze throughout the busy school year. Take your most effective and engaging lesson plans from the years and strip them down into easy-to-use templates you can reuse and recycle all year. Then, simply adapt them to various concepts, texts, and activities to work smarter, not harder, in the upcoming school year.

    Stay organized with my free and downloadable dateless teacher planner. 

    Ready, Set, Summer!

    Despite all of the tips above, know that not everyone approaches summer break the same way— and that’s okay. Some people might be busy working a second job, need to stay home with their kids, or simply have different perspectives of what the perfect summer looks like. Take what you need from this post and leave the rest. Focus on resting and recharging in a way that works best for you this summer.

    Don’t feel guilty for resting, relaxing, and simply taking a break. Teaching is hard work–and never forget that those summer months offer a well-earned and more than deserved break. So sit back, relax, and think about what you want (and need) to do this summer for you. When the new school year arrives, you’ll be refreshed and ready to be the best teacher you can be.

    If you’re preparing for your first year teaching, here is a list of things I wish I had known before my first year.

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