Most of us have school friends —that person, or if we’re lucky, people, who we invite into our classroom for a closed-door, Vegas (as in, “what is said here, stays here”) conversation, who sit with us at faculty meetings, who go to lunch with us on workdays, who can communicate only through eye contact.
For 10 months out of the year, these school friends share our stress (who else could understand the pressures of balancing family, effective instruction, and efficient grading?), they celebrate with us when we get through to that student, and they lament with us when the student we were just about to reach drops out or transfers. School friends just GET us.
Maintaining friendships is easy when you’re together five days a week. We can have our coffee together doing morning hall duty, eat lunch with one another, go for a quick walk after school together … But keeping up the friendships over summer takes a little more work.
Here are five ways to avoid a summertime hiatus in some of the nearest and dearest relationships in a teacher’s life:
1. Make a school friend your summer exercise buddy.
Summer is a fantastic time for teachers to begin or ramp up an exercise regimen. At the same time, the isolation of summer can lead to sedentary habits as we give permission to ourselves to recover from the school year. Making a teacher friend into a summer exercise partner creates accountability and an opportunity to develop a non-school relationship. Walking, hiking, biking, doing yoga, hitting the school weight room, or meeting at the gym are all much more fun with a friend.
Furthermore, exercise crosses boundaries. Two of my colleagues, one in her early-30s without children and the other in her mid-40s with two teenagers, exercise together about once a week. Despite the differences in their ages and personal lives, their bond is growing.
2. Go to nearby cultural outings together.
My colleagues recently attended a comedy show together, but any kind of event that interests you will do. Do you and a fellow teacher both love the same kind of music? Summer is a great time for concerts and festivals. Better yet, there are no “school nights” so you can stay out as late as you want, even on a Tuesday!
Are you art, drama, or movie enthusiasts? Take advantage of the cheaper (or free!) tickets and smaller crowds at museums and matinees on weekdays. Taking school friends to daytime activities builds relationships and is gives an excuse to change out of pajamas for those teacher friends whose partners work jobs with traditional hours.
3. Share a hobby or support a side business.
If we don’t get out of the school setting with our teacher friends, we may only get to know their teacher personas. To get to know the depth of a person, join them in their passion.
If your friend likes to brew kombucha, volunteer to be a taste tester. Even better, visit during the brewing to learn the process. If your friend represents products on the side, throw a virtual or face-to-face party supporting her sales or at least make a purchase. One of my teacher friends makes soap and sells it at a local farmer’s market. Why buy from a big name retailer when I can strengthen my friendship with her?
Another colleague of mine has fallen in love with Korean culture. Visiting with her may mean watching a Korean soap opera (though I am more interested in trying out her Korean recipes).
Your colleagues probably have as wide and varied hobbies and side jobs as mine. Spend time with them and find how shared interests improve relationships. Supporting a teacher friend’s passion demonstrates trust, a cornerstone to true friendship.
4. Create a book club.
In the vein of shared interests, few groups of people like to read as much as teachers. Indeed, my social media feed is inundated with requests for suggestions to add to summer reading lists. Reading does not have to be a solitary activity! Share in the excitement of a book by creating a book club that meets once a week. Depending upon the pace of your book club’s reading, you could get between two and four books read and discussed over the summer! Make sure the books are fun. Reading pedagogical texts or self-help books might feel too much like work, and this is about enjoying one another as much as the book.
5. Simply meet for lunch.
While all of the above activities are fantastic, fun, and interesting, sometimes a school year has left us with little energy for creative excursions. You can still keep in contact with your friends by just meeting casually for lunch. Go as you are to a little cafe and spend some time laughing and sharing in each other’s lives. Your friends, even the ones you work with, like you for you. And you like them for them. Don’t deprive one another of company in the name of summer vacation. Besides, going to lunch means not grocery shopping for a meal. Who doesn’t like that?
Before we know it, another year will be upon us. Take the opportunity to truly socialize with each other before conversations are dominated with acronyms, buzzwords, and the behaviors of students.