Teachers, Forget the Summer Bucket List

For us, summer should be the season of saying no.

10 Things I Won't Be Doing This Summer

As teachers, a summer recharge is so critical. Those weeks offer us an important opportunity to shake off the frustration of lessons that flopped and the heartbreak of any students who failed.

I’m looking forward to a summer of mountain biking, reading, writing, and also spending time with family. While all of these things are a great escape, I know that it’s not really about what I’m doing … it’s more about what I’m NOT doing. 

Whether you are hitting the beach, the books, or your side hustle, I hope you will also join me in pledging NOT to do certain things over summer break! Here are a few of the things on my anti-bucket list.

1. I won’t fret about the failings of this school year.

I recently wrote about the struggles that come with the end of a school year, but it’s time to take a break. We shouldn’t bring that baggage with us to the beach. Instead, we should focus on the promise of a new year and a fresh start.

2. I won’t reread any books this summer—new titles only.

All the English teachers out there hear me. Reading over books we have read countless times already? That is our job during the school year. This summer will only be for new reads, and most of them will be indulgent stuff, like YA novels and popular fiction. Want to stop thinking about school? A best-selling page-turner is a great place to start, no matter which discipline you teach.

3. I will not drink bad coffee.

You know the quick-service version of coffee, complete with a paper cup and plastic lid? Well, not this summer. This summer I want coffee in my favorite ceramic mug. I also want a french press at some little table at a corner cafe. The iced coffee from the local shop where even the ice cubes are made of coffee, so it’s never watered down? That’s what I want. I deserve good coffee during summer break—and so do you.

4. I won’t keep track of what day of the week it is.

With a couple months of summer away from the job, I have the luxury of not paying attention to the calendar. What day is it? Not a school day!

5. I won’t obsess about next year.

Certainly, summer offers a great time for us all to reflect on our craft and, in addition, contemplate changes we want to make next year. Still, as teachers we all possess the ability to let the job crowd out other aspects of our life. A little bit of planning is good, but summer is also for catching up on the rest of our lives.

6. I won’t watch half of a movie.

Come on, be honest. You start a movie, and then the absurd hour at which we all start our workday starts nagging at you. You picture facing your first period class feeling groggy and cranky, and eventually you give in and settle on watching the second half the next night. I watched The Dark Knight like that. It was a travesty that will not be repeated this summer.

7. I won’t teach.

Instead I will spend some time as a student again. Maybe I will take some guitar lessons or try my hand at lift-served downhill mountain biking. Whatever you have been contemplating, allow yourself to be the learner this summer. Soak in the relief of not being the expert in a field of study and remember what it is like to be on the other side of the desk.

8. I won’t wear socks, or shoes, or pants.

Yep, you heard me right. As a teacher, I am not allowed to show up to my sweltering classroom in shorts and flip flops, but this summer that is all I will wear. Shoes needed for exercise are acceptable but must be removed as soon as I am finished. Ah, the sweet freedom of feeling a breeze between my toes.

9. I won’t ignore my own kids for the betterment of someone else’s.

Grading essays, calling parents, revamping lessons—we all know the reasons why we tell our own kids that we can’t play right now. But summer is about saying yes to my kids. Yes, I will play basketball with you. I will read you a book. I will play cards. Yes to catch and coloring.

10. I won’t nod politely when someone says, “Oh, it must be nice having your summers off.”

Yes, I will tell them, it is nice. Already I feel myself recharging for another year of teaching young kids how to navigate a world where students shoot other students and men grab women without their consent. This break will allow me to face a room of 32 angsty teens and harness them into a supportive community of learners. Yes, I think after a couple months off I will again be ready to combat the pull of social media and a national discourse built around sound bites to teach students how to think deeply about a subject.

I can smell the mountain air already. The sunshine warms my skin. I can also feel the promise of a couple of months focused on bettering myself rather than my students. I know summer break will make me a better teacher—and a better person—in the long run. 

Try connecting with other teachers this summer. Check out our WeAreTeachers Chat group on Facebook. 

Plus, the ultimate teacher’s summer bucket list

Teachers, Forget the Summer Bucket List

Posted by Jeremy Knoll

Knoll is a public school English teacher of nearly two decades. Outside of the classroom he spends his time working as a freelance writer or exploring the outdoors with his wife, two boys, and dog. He loves the subject he teaches so much that he named his dog Atticus and got a half-sleeve tattoo depicting a scene from Maurice Sendak's WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE to celebrate the birth of his kids.

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