What Teachers Really Do on Summer Break

So What Do Teachers Really Do Over Summer Break?

"Oh my gosh, you are SO lucky that you get summers off!"

You've either heard this or said this before if you're a teacher or know a teacher. While it is a remarkable concept that as a teacher you're not "on the clock" for a full calendar year, getting "summers off" is not an accurate description. It's an awkward subject, and hearing this statement makes many teachers uncomfortable. Yes, we rejoice when we first taste the sweet freedom of summer, and we celebrate the closing of another academic year with End of Year class parties & teacher happy hours, but we always feel a twinge of awkwardness because when you really break it down, "summer break" for teachers is more of a myth than a reality.

Teachers are disappointed by the stigma that teaching is "easy," and the misconception of summer break makes education seem like a "cushy" career field. This is especially frustrating for teachers that put in so much overtime during the school year. Y'all, we have slaved and given our blood, sweat, tears, emotions, energy, heart, and SOULS into each of the 75,600 minutes of the school year! (See Texas Education Agency House Bill 2610 for details.) Alright, maybe not every minute, but you get the idea. 

However, this reflection piece isn't meant to be a downer, but an inside look into what teachers really do during the summer - at least this girl! So let's get down to the dirty: I'm going to break down a Teacher Summer into three simple stages, kind of like the stages of the Life Cycle of a butterfly! Every teacher is different, but here's my experience:
  1. Recovery
  2. Rejuvenation
  3. Restart

Stage 1 - Recovery (1-2 weeks)
Picture this initial stage of summer as the caterpillar stage of a butterfly's life cycle. A caterpillar eats & eats and sleeps & sleeps. Likewise, the first couple of weeks after the end of the school year, this teacher VEGGES OUT. I enjoy the first couple week days without a 5 am alarm clock set, soaking in every minute that I get to sleep in and catch up on rest. Many teachers, including me, often start the summer off with a bang and go on a trip or vacation. This year school was out by Memorial Day weekend, which was AWESOME! Then, once June hit, I went camping with the in-laws and then headed to the beach the next week to visit my parents. The Recovery Stage is the short, sweet time that teachers take to leave all worries behind, relax, relieve stress, and decompress from the long, challenging academic year. *Inhale positivity, exhale anxiety*
Yes, those are my legs. Yes, teachers have those underneath their dress-pants!
Stage 2 - Rejuvenation (2-3 weeks)
Once the caterpillar has had enough time to get stuffed & comfy, it then settles into its chrysalis, or a transitional state. Likewise, once I've taken the liberty of a vacation (or two) I make a transformation and get the ball of productivity rolling again. I start with establishing a "work-from-home" routine and make my To-Do List. This is the time period that I finally get to finish long-abandoned projects & responsibilities around the house. I'm actually home enough to help my husband with things and actually have time to give my home life some TLC. This is also the time that many teacher-mommies get to be fully involved in their own children's lives after neglecting them to meet the needs of their school kiddos for the past 10 months. (Side note: Teacher-Mommies, y'all are my HEROES and I hope you savor every second with your babies, but more on that in a later post.) In my case, since I do not have children of my own yet, I take time to rejuvenate my spirit by catching up on reading my favorite books or revisiting a long-lost hobby, like writing (obviously) and coloring (adult coloring books are for real therapy, y'all.) At this point in the summer, I am ready to get back to business!

Stage 3 - Restart (4-6 weeks)
Once July comes around, teachers hit the ground running! Imagine a butterfly as it emerges from its chrysalis as a renewed creature ready to spread new wings and take flight into the world. That's how this teacher feels in July. I call this stage "Get 'er Done Mode" because I begin actively planning for the fast-approaching fall semester. This summer, I jumped ahead & started planning a little early by ordering an Erin Condren Teacher Lesson Planner! (I'm so GEEKED OUT about it and can't wait to share its gloriousness, but more on that in a later post.) At this time, many teachers begin venturing back into their vacant classrooms to start setting up for Back to School. Teachers have to make many changes often during the summers, like changing classrooms and transitioning to a new grade-level. Therefore, they have to move out & into classrooms, sometimes by choice, sometimes by assignment. Setting up a classroom is a big job and takes a lot of time & effort, which is why teachers often get a good start way in advance, as well as gathering & preparing Back to School materials. The month of July is also the time when most Professional Development is scheduled. Whether it's an orientation, certification update, or a workshop on a new curriculum, teachers spend many hours, days, or even weeks in training during the summer. And then, there's good ol' Summer School. Many teachers are on duty during the summer in credit-recovery or jump-start programs for students who need a boost before starting the new school year. Now that takes some dedication!
Time to set up a classroom from scratch!
So there you have it: the three stages of a Teacher Summer. Of course, every teacher has a different story, and every summer is different! In fact, in my five years of teaching, I have not had a "normal" summer! Here's a recap:
  1. My first summer: I graduated from Texas State University in August of 2013 after taking a few summer classes to complete my degree. I then immediately jumped in & started teaching Pre-K at a private preschool.
  2. I spent the next summer as a Youth Specialist at Camp Good Samaritan along with interviewing for a teaching position in a public school district. I landed a First Grade position 4 days before school started and had to set up my new classroom within 24 hours so that it was ready for Meet the Teacher Night. (That was a WHIRLWIND.)
  3. The following year, in 2015, I got engaged, we bought a house & moved to a new town, planned a wedding, got married on August 1st, honeymooned until August 8th and then I was back on duty at my new school on August 12th. (Yes, 2 years later & my head is STILL spinning!)
  4. Last year, I transitioned to Team-Teaching so I had to move my classroom down the hall to be next to my partner teacher. I also taught Summer School for the second half of summer.
  5. This summer, I am moving schools and changing grade-levels, so I'm getting to set up a new classroom from scratch! 
So, yeah, summers are crazy-busy for this girl! I feel very privileged to have had some extra time during the summer breaks to handle the whirlwind of life changes these past few years. Bottom line: I love what I do and every up & down of the wave is worth it. Stay tuned for a closer look at my new classroom set up and the adventure of starting a new Pre-Kindergarten program at my elementary school! Have a great summer! 

Cassie Dixon

Believer | Educator | Dreamer