This Is How Teachers REALLY Spend Summer Break

Ah, glorious Summer vacation. It's that magical time for kicking back, embracing the sunshine, and completely forgetting about the school year. Well, only if you're a student. For educators, Summer break isn't quite the freewheeling "vacation" that people think it is.

For starters, the last day of school is rarely the last day for teachers. Depending on their contracts, they often have to work another week, long after the students have dumped the remains of their backpacks into the overflowing trash cans. That week is filled up with department meetings, whole-school team building, dreaded DATA meetings, and district-level meetings that they've decided to save for the end of the year. Lovely.

I have to read new books for the upcoming year, plan units, and figure out what to do each day. This, to be perfectly honestly, could take the entire Summer break.

And somewhere packed in all this is having to get our classrooms cleaned and organized, which can look wildly different depending on the needs of the school. At least half of my years as a teacher, I had to get rid of everything, and I mean everything — put the broken desks and chairs in the hallways, remove all of those decorations I had taken days to assemble and put up the year before, and pack up all of my books. At some point in the Summer, well before I need to report to school, I'll come back to my classroom to get it ready for the next year.

Sure, after this long week is over, there is (finally) some vacation. I always manage to squeeze in a trip somewhere. And at home, I often spend time riding my bike, going to weekday brunches, and watching far too much TV. I also get time with my son, whom I've basically ignored throughout the year so I can take care of other people's children. After a year of mentally grueling work, this break isn't just welcome, it's desperately needed to recharge our batteries.

But "turning off" never lasts long, because we soon have to start prepping for the year to come. There are no sultry beach reads for this teacher, because instead, I have to read new books for the upcoming year, plan units, and figure out what to do each day. This, to be perfectly honestly, could take the entire Summer break, and it feels like no matter how much time I put into it, it will never be enough. The funny part is, a lot of it will then have to be changed once I meet my students and figure out their needs.

Many teachers spend the bulk of their break attending conferences, planning meetings with administrations, and working on their own education by completing Masters and Doctorates. For the first three years of my teaching experience, I also squeezed in two to three side jobs during the Summer, since we don't usually get paid for that time. Summer vacation can look different for every teacher, but we all do a lot of work in a relatively short time. My shortest Summer vacation was four weeks before I was expected to return to the world of teaching.

Summer break is a mixed bag. I get to relax and sleep for the first time in a year, but I also have this nagging pile of work that needs to get accomplished. I guess if you have to be doing paperwork, there's no better place to do it than by the pool.