What do K-12 teachers do during summer vacation?

BlogHer Original Post

What would you do if every year at the same time you were granted two weeks of vacation? Would you sit around eating bon bons? Unlikely. Teachers are just as busy during the summer as they are during the year--and much of that busyness is related to teaching.

My parents are retired high school teachers, and I remember our summers as pleasant periods punctuated by one- or two-week vacations around the American west. My parents participated in a "summer savers" program that automatically withdrew money from their paychecks during the school year and put it into a summer account. Although they tried not to talk much about money (and how if you're a public school teacher supporting a family there's never quite enough of it) in front of us, I'm sure by late August the family budget was stretched pretty thin. Accordingly, when we were at home, we took many trips to the library and the beach, we played in the backyard, and we helped my parents with gardening and little jobs around the house.

Other teachers, however, are more adventurous. Linda at Gymnotes participated in "The Udder Run" through a dairy in 100-degree heat.

Happy Chyck was trying to earn some extra money this summer, but both her summer jobs have fallen through. Instead, she's going to an instructional conference and a writing institute.

Elementary History Teacher is spending her summer on professional activities:

It's all over now but post-planning, isn't it? Now it's on to spending the next eight weeks tweaking those lesson plans, creating new slide presentations, looking for new sources, and research, research, research. Oh, and don't forget team meetings to plan, professional development classes to attend, college classes to finish up at break neck speed, and reading all of those professional manuals and research books you've stacked up for the summer.

Anna Ayala is in a similar position. Among the items on her summer vacation to do list: textbook reviews, catch up on sleep, take a continuing education course, study for the Graduate Record Exam, write a syllabus, teach a Sunday school class, teach summer courses (driver's ed?!?), work at a summer camp, and rearrange her portfolio. Whew! Just reading her list makes me tired.

Yoda of Math is sprucing up her teaching wardrobe and planning how she's going to teach probability and statistics.

Social studies teacher John Spencer worries about overplanning and wonders if he should consider occasional procrastination:

So, it's the end of week one for the summer vacation. I have all eight weeks planned out and subdivided within a bulleted list. The bullets have sub-bullets. After awhile, it begins to resemble a drive-by, with bullets strewn everywhere. I suppose "drive-by" is not a bad metaphor for my approach to summer vacation. I get restless too fast and forget to rest. I attack it and plan it to death. I drive through the summer quickly and miss out on the spontaneity of a lazy afternoon.

I have a friend who tends to put things off until the last minute. He plans his lessons the night before and quickly modifies them during class. True, he's a bit scattered and occasionally not very dependable. Yet, he is always present, in the moment and flexible to the changes of the social context. It is not that he "puts things off," so much as he waits until the last minute to go into action.

The Buss provides first-year teachers with a guide--"Teacher Summer Vacation for Dummies." Here's his rundown of how summer vacation works:

Summer break: Day 1: This is the "Is it true?" day, when you realize you no longer have to wake up and go to work for awhile. You spend most of the day bored, looking for things to do.

Summer break: Week 1: I did say you'd be tired, so you'll spend this week sleeping in and watching lot of TV. Towards the end of the week, you'll start regaining some energy and maybe start doing yard work and things like that.

Summer break: Week 2: At some point this week, you'll find yourself missing work, and wishing you could go back. Don't worry, you'll get over this quickly. This is usually a good week to go on vacation or something, because you're starting to break out of that early vacation funk, you're getting your energy back, and you don't mind sitting around.

Summer break: Week 3: This is the week when it all becomes great. Everything is right with the world, you can read for pleasure, watch TV and not feel guilty about not grading papers, and stay up late doing whatever and not worry about work tomorrow.

After week 3, you're spoiled, you're rested, and now you settle into the life of someone who basically doesn't have a job but gets paychecks in the mail. Don't get too spoiled, because soon enough, you'll be starting up again, but don't worry, because by then, you'll be full of energy and ready to get back to it.

Keri of Quaint and Quirky is planning a similarly relaxing and productive summer:

Today was my first official day of summer vacation. As a teacher, it's kind of something for which you live. I refer to myself during the summer as "Summer Keri" like I'm some sort of vacation super hero. Summer Keri is relaxed, carefree, and fulfilled because she can explore things that interest her whenever she wants. In the past she has had a clean car and bedroom. This summer, her goal is clean house. She has time, she has energy. She has plans. She has projects.

What are your plans?

Leslie Madsen-Brooks helps university faculty improve their teaching. She blogs at The Clutter Museum, Museum Blogging, and The Multicultural Toy Box.


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