Top 5 Ways Summer Vacation Can Develop the "Whole" Teacher

Taking time to relax, recharge and gain inner balance

palm trees sunMost teachers are now more than halfway through the summer and hopefully, most of us have had some peaceful rest and relaxation with our families. For my family, the last six weeks of school were some of the busiest, most stressful weeks we had all year. There were birthdays, graduations, graduation parties, college deadlines, and the usual end of year responsibilities as well. This past winter, we decided we would leave as soon as school was out for a graduation celebration trip, so add "prepare for a 10-day trip out of the country" to the above list of stressors, as well!

It occurred to me that a vacation for educators, no matter how big or how small, is what allows us to reset and relax from a long school year. I believe we have one of the most rewarding, yet stressful jobs. We have to find ways to keep ourselves sane and balanced and develop our inner "whole teacher.” When the school year resumes, it’s those moments of summer bliss that remind us summer is coming and there will be time to soothe our souls again.

During my summer vacation, these are the top five ways I’ve chosen to seek those moments of personal growth and inner peace. I hope you’ll find these suggestions beneficial and try them out over the rest of your summer break, as I believe they will help you to de-stress and sustain yourself through the next school year.

items on beach1.) No matter where you’re headed, whether for a month or a weekend, pack light. Having fewer things simplifies your life. When you think about how many decisions you have to make each day, even every minute of every school day, having fewer decisions to make will cut your stress in half. Testing this tactic over the summer will pay off once the school year resumes. Have small kids? Pre-plan their outfits and roll each of them together. Allow them to decide which one to wear each day and you can rest easy knowing they will match.

2.) Think about the things that you love to do that you normally don't get to do during the school year. Make sure you make time to specifically do it over your break. Maybe it's exercising more, eating ice cream just because, or getting your nails done. As a literacy coach, during the school year, I am constantly reading professional development books. I have no time for pleasure reading. When I went on vacation, I left all school related work at home and brought 5-6 books I’d been wanting to read and I have no regrets. I believe when you make time for the things that have been pushed aside, it makes you more productive in the long run.

3.) Never underestimate the power of your senses! Whenever we go to the beach or the lake, I purposely choose shampoo, shower gel and lotion that smell like sea salt or coconut to use on my trip. During the school year when I start to feel stressed, I can pull out those travel samples for a hot bath, close my eyes, and remember those stress-free lazy summer days. There is nothing like a scent to transport you back to a happy memory.

sunset family4.) Trade Facebook for FACETime ― and I don't mean the calling feature on your iPhone. Everyone wants to preserve their memories; just don't spend so much time preserving that you forget to live it with your family. Take the photos you want, check in where you want, but save the posting for later when everyone is having down time. No one ever regrets not spending time on their phones, but many people regret not being present with their family. You will want your kids' memories of you to be of you fully engaged with them and not fully engaged with a phone.

5.) Be brave. Take chances. Have no regrets. I am the first one to put myself out there at school and try something new, but personally, I am very cautious and worry a lot. On vacation, I try to get outside of my comfort zone. I swim with pigs, I snorkel and explore places. At home, I am often too busy for "swimming" with my kids, but on vacation, I take the time. We play games and watch movies and in general get good quality time together without the distractions of a schedule and a "to do" list. We do planned excursions while on vacation, but we don't make our plans so rigid that we don't have time to just relax together.

table chairs dockDuring our last vacation, I sat outside on the patio reading one of the books I bought on the trip. Below me in the ocean, I could see my two guys playing in the turquoise water that was still sparkling as the sun started to dip below the horizon. There was a light and steady breeze blowing across my skin and among the background sound of the crashing waves, I heard my daughter on the balcony above me begin to play a slow, mellow song on the ukulele. Time seemed to stand still and all I could do was sit, smile, and soak it all in.

It was a moment I couldn't recreate if I tried, but I vowed right then and there that this, THIS was what I would close my eyes and remember when times got tough. When the agenda and the "to do" list were a mile long and I needed a chance to catch my breath, this moment would be what I would want to remember. I encourage you to look for the simple things that will carry you through next year's stressful times. Maybe it's a picnic, watching your kids chase fireflies, making homemade strawberry jam, or maybe it's a peaceful walk through your neighborhood. Take time to look. You might be surprised where you find it. I know I sure was and it will keep me “whole” for months to come.

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