The Dark Side of a Teacher’s Sunny Summer Vacation

We’ve heard it all before…how lucky we are to be teachers.  We get so much time off. We don’t have to work over the summer….blah, blah, blah, blah.  

This post isn’t even about all the work we do over the summer to get ready for the next year.  That’s a whole other topic that I’m not even delving into right now.

What I want to talk about is something that not many teachers talk about to others (because they wouldn’t understand) and maybe a lot of teachers don’t even talk about it to each other (because we think we’re alone).

And I’d like to just see how many other teachers have experienced what I’m calling the “darker side” of our summer vacation.

This exploration started with a post in We are Teaching Well Facebook Group from a group member.  She eloquently stated something that I haven’t been able to quite explain as precisely before….

“I know we all feel some type of elation when the school year is over and our rooms are finally neatly packed away for the next school year, the summer break laid out before us like a buffet of possibilities. That is a great feeling. I would love to have a discussion about the flip side of that experience. While I am so happy that break has arrived, there is also an adjustment period for many of us. Personally, I feel rootless and at loose ends, not quite knowing exactly what to do with my life when it enters this less intense phase. I am happy to have a break, but I am also feeling something else as I let go of each school year.”

Have you ever felt that way at the end of the school year-rootless and at loose ends, not quite knowing exactly what to do with [your] life when it enters this less intense phase-and perhaps for some of us, feel this way all summer long?

I know I could relate to this feeling and so could many of the other group members, I reached out to some other teachers I work with and they too have felt this “darker side” of summer vacation.

It seems it’s not talked about because it’s hard to say to a non-teacher friend, “Wow I’m feeling a little off because I don’t have to work for 12 weeks.”  Or to a spouse, “I’m feeling a little down in the dumps because I don’t know what to do with myself all day.” Especially because both of these people may have been ones we confided in about how stressful our day-to-day job is.

But that’s precisely why this kind of dramatic shift happens.  We have been literally in the trenches of our job for nine months and then in a pretty quick instant…poof…it’s all over.  I don’t want to compare it to a war, per say, but the analogy is useful (and depending on our year it may have felt similarly to a war zone).

It might be a better fit to compare it to a race we’ve been training for or a surprise party we’ve been planning for a friend.  We have so much focus on that one thing and then it’s over in an instant. Our purpose and energy that was once consumed by this event is no longer needed.

So one thing that comforted me was knowing that I was not the only teacher who felt this way.  It didn’t mean I was ungrateful for the time off, that I didn’t appreciate having less of a schedule or wouldn’t find a way to spend my time, but it was a little uncomfortable at first.

And that was okay!  In fact it was good to just be with this uncomfortability.

As I’ve been exploring this “darker side” of summer vacation, I’ve been talking to teachers who shared these further frustrations about this time off…

  • I don’t know where to begin with the things that have been put off all school year.
  • I don’t know how to create a balance with more time.
  • I have goals but always get to the end of the summer and didn’t accomplish anything I intended to.
  • I don’t know how to just relax

As I’ve talked to more and more teachers, this is a consistent theme that not many people talk about and I just wanted to bring some awareness to it.  If you’re struggling with this darker side of your sunny summer vacation, you are not alone.

One consistent solution that I’ve heard is to have school year round.  Yes, that’s a solution, but not one that is going to be happening immediately.  So what’s a teacher to do at this time of year, given that we all want to make the most of our time off?

That will be the topic of our blog next week….what to actually do to make this transition smoother.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about how you experience this time of year as a teacher and if you have any solutions for how to make a more natural transition between our school year and our summer break so that we can keep the darker side of our summer vacation as minimal as possible.

Leave a comment below or jump over to the We are Teaching Well Facebook Group to join in the conversation there.

If you want to jump right in with shedding some light on the darker side of summer, check out Teaching Well’s FREE COURSE 4 Simple Self-Care Solutions in Only Five Minutes a Day!


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Danielle Nuhfer
danielle@teachingwell.life

Here are a few titles I go by...teacher, student, gardener, runner, nature-lover, writer and meditator. I care deeply about my own journey to wellness and want to inspire others to walk this path. Inspiring others to discover the value of mindfulness, positive psychology and other holistic health practices is my life's work.

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