Finding Balance in Your Summer Off

SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER!! The end is here (or at least near) for all of us in education and how we are going to fill our time off is on everyone's mind. Social media is rich right now with teachers gearing up their insta’s with education summer projects. A quick google search of “what do teachers do in the summer” brings lists after lists of how to spend your time. These lists vary a bit here and there, but the main points boil down to--take some you time, some friend/family time and some work time. That sums up my plans. Come June 29th, I’ll be hanging at the pool, discovering what working out more than once a week feels like, having drinks on a patio, binging a netflix series or five, sidewalk shopping and sleeping in ‘til the crazy hour of 7:15. Bring it on.

I’ll also definitely work from time to time. A little professional development planning here, some back to school prep there and the list goes on and on! We plan to keep the Modern Principal site a rollin' too with ideas that reflect and refine our practices over the summer.

But here’s the challenge all...find what actually makes you happy this summer and do that. I know that's super #basic, but let's deep dive that a bit more shall we?

For me, I usually enjoy reading ed research like Hattie’s books (well the latest one at least). I usually get joy out of crossing off my back to school checklist before August. That’s how I’m wired and it usually helps me relax more to balance my time in this manner. Usually. But I may also decide mid-July I don't want to follow that plan and I'd rather save my work until I'm back at work. The challenge is to give myself the grace to be okay with that plan, too. Because the alternative is feeling guilty for how I'm spending my time off instead of simply enjoying it.

If we begin to measure our dedication to students and our profession over how much we work in our off-time, we create a dangerous precedent not only for ourselves but also for our colleagues.

Take this relatable example: You walk in on the first contract day in August, gearing up for days of meetings and there are two different types of classrooms. Classroom A looks like a desert wasteland--blank bulletin boards and barren shelves, chairs piled in the middle of the room, tumbleweeds blowing through the empty get the idea. Classroom B, on the other hand, looks like an HGTV “After” segment, complete with new polka dot bucket seats, crisp lettering on all finished bulletin boards, name tags carefully caligraphied with the copies for Back to School Night set out and ready to go.

The question can't simply be which type of teacher are you? It SHOULD be fine to be either type of teacher. Rather, the question needs to become “Are we, consciously or not, evaluating an educator’s commitment to the job and their students based on how they spend their off time?” It’s easy to say "Of course not", but do our words and actions align with that? Do we judge other colleagues that don’t rise to our level of time spent working on our off time? Do we compare ourselves to others only to carry shame and guilt if we aren’t measuring up?

Can we all just agree to stop? Give everyone, including yourself, the space to do what is best for your personal and professional life.

A principal colleague shared this moment she had with a teacher recently. Trying hard to make sure teachers know she values time off to recharge, this admin friend was intentional about keeping the building locked over the summer. A teacher in that building asked the principal for summer access so she could come in over July and work on her classroom. The principal encouraged her to take time off instead and wait to work until August. Respectfully, however, the teacher pushed back and it caught my friend off guard. This teacher divorced about a year prior and was going to have the summer without her kids for the first time ever. So, for this teacher, work was exactly what she felt she needed to stay busy and keep her positive headspace. She simply wanted the freedom to decide what amount of work was best for her in this phase of life.

There is no ‘right’ answer for how to spend our summer. Regardless of the camp you find yourself in, use caution before judging someone's (or your own) investment in our profession based on the hours worked this summer. This job is way too demanding to begin measuring each other by the way we choose to spend our off time.

So as you enter the summer season, you do you EduQueen. You are an important member of our educational society and we need you at your best. For some kids, you are THEIR person. They deserve to have you at your very best in August. Only you know the best way to get there. And our community will be there to share in strengths no matter what you choose.

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