Coming to Terms With “Summer Break Blues”
The teaching year has a rhythm all its own. If any profession has a special relationship with seasons and holidays, it’s teaching. The back-to-school transition is nearly synonymous with the start of autumn. The middle of the school year is like two campaigns against the magnetic draws of winter holiday and spring. But the season that teachers experience the most uniquely is, of course, summer. Come June, all the starts and stops of the school year come to one big, highly anticipated FULL STOP. The end of the year can come as a huge relief, but if you ask enough teachers, summer break isn’t always butterflies and buttercups.
For some, this summer routine is a true vacation or a rest from being in front of students for weeks on end. For others, it is time spent taking care of family or working a different job. For most, it is a little of all of the above, sometimes calling for even more juggling than is required during the school year. As with lesson plans, the best-laid blueprints for a well-balanced July can come up short on time, money or both. The summer stakes feel high. Many teachers describe feeling stressed or down. Sometimes there is a feeling of cramming in too many plans that were postponed over the last 10 months. Sometimes there is the worry of taking too long of a break and neglecting an important task, or being separated from the work that gives you a lot of purpose. Not everyone gets the summer blues, but, generally speaking, there is a common thread of summer expectations and summer reality being in conflict. No matter how well one manages their time, the reality is that there is rarely enough time to do everything well.
This can be especially true when it comes to parenting over the summer. Trying to find the right balance of activities for kids who have anything but a schedule on their minds can lead to conflict or disappointment. The skills teachers learn to create structure are sometimes to be rejected by those closest to them. It can be difficult to transition from a context in which the majority of the day is spent with students to one which is filled with time spent in close contact with family. Remembering the differences between these two dynamics can often be clarifying and reassuring and may even help create a routine that is better suited for children on vacation. Many actually recommend adding some structure (like a family calendar) into summer to help kids (and parents) with potential anxiety over the relatively unstructured rhythm of summer. Have a daily checklist, but keep it short.
Frustratingly, many can be unsympathetic to the difficult feelings experienced by some teachers during the season. Summer is supposed to be carefree in the eyes of many outside of the profession but it is clear to anyone with a seasonal profession that these changes in schedule are more complicated to negotiate than they appear. It is important to seek advice from people who know the kind of situation the work of teaching creates. Rather than minimize the complicating factors that make what can be a rewarding time of year fatiguing, accepting all the feelings that arise is key.
So, here’s to all of you with the summer break blues. One thing is for sure: the first day of school will be here any minute.