One thing that I always dreaded, as I enjoyed my summer vacations as a child, was the knowledge that, come September, I would have to write an essay about it. The more cool stuff I did the more I would have to write, so I kept my summer fun to a minimum, usually 50 words or less.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask teachers to write about their summer vacations? As a school principal, I would always begin by back-to-school teacher meetings with exactly that question: What did you do on your summer vacation? I could easily divide the responses into two categories.
The first category were teachers who would answer with a spark in their eyes and a smile on their faces. It was clear their summer had been the rejuvenating experience we all desire. Their batteries were recharged and they were raring to go, ready to take on the challenges and joys the new school year would provide. The second category looked relaxed but apprehensive. You could sense in their body language that they could use a few more days or weeks (etc.) of vacation time. Their bodies had made it back to school but their minds were still miles away.
What was interesting was the fact that their states of mind correlated to what they had done over the summer. While I would have imagined that the first group would have been the one that ‘just chilled’ over the summer, while the second group would have been the ‘busy beavers’, the opposite was true. The teachers that replied that they did not do anything particularly interesting, rather used the time to relax and ‘forget about school for awhile’, were those that seemed to need to forget a bit more. But those who had used their time creatively, seeing new things, learning new skills, experiencing new experiences (which, of course, they were just dying to share with their students) were those who couldn’t wait to get back into the classroom.
Many believe that in order to ‘recharge our batteries’ we must take off 10 weeks and just relax. This is a mistake. We all know that you do not recharge a battery by taking it out of the electrical appliance and letting it rest. Putting the battery on the table for a few months will not recharge anything; the battery will simply retain the power level that remained before being removed (or slowly drain whatever power remained). Obviously, in order to recharge the battery you must plug it in to an active power source. People are no different.
We too recharge by plugging into that which inspires and excites us. The successful teacher plans for a successful summer. They use the summer months to grow as individuals, family members and professionals. Finding and taking full advantage of those growth opportunities is the secret to a truly relaxing, yet invigorating vacation. It will make the dreaded essay longer, but it’s worth the effort.