Teachers, Here’s Your Summer 2024 Anti-Bucket List

Sometimes saying no is just as important as saying yes.

Photos of sad travel coffee and a teacher not on summer break

One practice I swear by as a teacher is the summer bucket list. Some things on the list are maintenance-related, either for myself, my vehicle, or my house. Some are ambitious projects I would never have the energy to do during the school year (I’m looking at you, redecorating my son’s room). But most are fun. Books I want to read, restaurants or classes I want to try, new museums or shops that have opened during the school year.

But this year, I’m adding a second list: the anti-bucket list.

The anti-bucket list is simple: a list of things you’re committed to not doing. In the same way that a bucket list spurs and motivates you to reach certain goals, an anti-bucket list frees you from them. Because you’ve already given yourself permission to say no to things that aren’t helpful to you, it’ll be easier to prioritize the things that are.

Here’s what’s on my list this year:

16 Things I’m NOT Doing This Summer

1. Fretting about the failings of this school year

Nope. Whether it was our own shortcomings or the faults of a system that doesn’t take care of its own, I’m not wasting any time in self-shame this summer. Leave that baggage at the front desk and join me for the pool party, my friend.

2. Taking on any home projects that don’t bring me joy


Sorry, garage—you’re going to have to stay disorganized one more year. I have a whole Pinterest board of other more joyful projects to attend to.

3. Tying my self-worth to productivity

I have big dreams for this summer. But the mistake I’m not making this year is feeling bad about myself if I don’t get to them. It is enough to rest and be present. That’s my mantra.

4. Reading any books I’m less than excited about

Say no to anything that feels like a chore to read. That includes books that you start and don’t love but feel obligated to finish. There are no rules in summer reading!

5. Drinking sad coffee

Summer is not for settling, even when it comes to coffee. This summer I’m committed to either French press in my favorite ceramic mug or a cheeky iced coffee from the local shop that comes with ice made of espresso. I deserve this. So do you (or whatever soothing beverage you reach for).

6. Actually, having fast mornings in general

I do more than enough rushing, scrambling, hurrying, and hustling during the school year. This summer, even if I have to drive the kids to camp in the morning or be somewhere at an early hour, I’m going to do so in my bathrobe, then go home and finish my slow morning before anything else. Maybe I need a new bathrobe.

7. Getting roped into volunteering because I’m “off” for the summer

I don’t know about you, but in the summer, I tend to become a magnet for friends, groups, and committees who need volunteers because I’m “off during the summer.” I used to get frustrated and let my people-pleasing tendencies rope me into yet another swim meet, gala, or competition judge. This year? I’m going to say, “I’m so glad you thought of me! I had an exhausting year and am really focusing on resting this summer, so I won’t be able to help out. Is there another way I can support this cause?”

8. Keeping track of what day it is

What day is it? Not a school day, I can tell you that!

9. Feeling obligated to stay connected

Maybe I’ll make an Instagram reel every day of all the things I did that I never get to do during the school year. Or maybe I will switch to a landline and throw my phone into the sea. The choice to disconnect is mine alone and I’ll do what I want, dangit!

10. Comparing my summer to anyone else’s

Speaking of disconnecting, I also won’t be comparing my summer to anyone else’s on Instagram. Unless mine is better, in which case I will bask in that knowledge privately.

11. Obsessing about next year

That is a problem for Future Me.

12. Watching half a movie

We’ve all done it. You start a movie in the evening, and midway through you either start checking your email inbox or dreading that 4 a.m. alarm. You say, “I’ll finish this tomorrow,” and before you know it, you’ve added another title to your mental graveyard of half-movies.

13. Teaching (or teaching-adjacent) activities

District sending emails about record-low turnout of teachers for summer school? Nope. Not on that committee.

“Mandatory” professional development scheduled for a full two weeks off-contract? Sorry, I have surgery scheduled to repair my commitment gland.

Someone “voluntells” you to present at a conference requiring several days of prep? No. You have explosive diarrhea. In advance. (It’s a thing.)

14. Wearing hard clothes

Clothing I would consider hard: dress socks, closed-toed shoes, pants that aren’t notably soft or stretchy, and shirts that require ironing.

15. Ignoring my own kids for the betterment of someone else’s

Summer is about saying yes to my own kids. Yes, I’ll shoot hoops with you. Yes, I’ll read you another chapter at bedtime. Yes, I’ll play cards (even when you bend the rules).

16. Laughing it off when someone says something annoying about teacher summers

“Wish I had the summer off,” they’ll say.

“Yes,” I’ll tell them, “it is nice. I can feel myself recharging for another year of wondering whether this is the year I’ll have to be a human shield.”

If you’re like me and tend to tie your worth to what you accomplish, join me! Let this summer be the one where you try an anti-bucket list. You’ve earned it!

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