Slowing down, but not turning off

A first-year teacher’s experience with summer break

Jul 11, 2019

Normally discussions around productivity frustrate me, as I find them a bit too centered on self-glorification, and yet here I am, writing a blog post on summer teacher productivity.

I’ve had 13 summer breaks as a K-12 student, and 4 summer breaks as a university student, but this is my first as a teacher. Summer 2019 is the first summer where I haven’t felt the pressure of finding a part-time job or registering for summer school classes, and the hype around that is real!

As excited as I am to not worry about the following workday, I do find that it is easy to relax, sleep in, and resist the temptation of thinking forward to the next school year.

Slowing down

Stranger Things 3 has had me glued to my couch for a portion of time, as has my latest download of Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch. A lot of productivity gurus would lament my time as being wasted in media indulgences, but if I’m honest, those indulgences were so important for me as I exited my first class and entered summer break.

These activities brought me a lot of joy, and they helped me slow down as I found time to revel in my relaxation.

At the same time, I recognize that it is hard to get off the couch once you’ve sat down. There have been moments already this summer where all I wanted to do was continue to water virtual crops in my virtual Nintendo farm (you’ll just have to trust me that Stardew Valley is a lot of fun).

As fun as it is, what does this mean for my summer if I never leave the couch?

Not turning off

I still want to learn and grow as a person, and as an educator during my time away from school. The motivator I’ve found all has to do with learner choice.

The summer gifts a vast array of time to a teacher, and for me, the options of what I will do with that time keeps me ecstatic.

I am thrilled to be in a place where I can read that professional development book I never had time for between September and June, and I rejoice in finding time to hone my speaking side-hustle and podcasting, as there wasn’t much time to hobby during the school year.

The thought of jumping into hobbies I’ve missed for 10 months motivates me off the couch.

Staying on track

On the other hand, I’m an Enneagram 7, so the thought of all these activities excites me, but my problem is actually finishing that book I started or continuing my side-hustle.

This is where learner choice no longer helps the situation.

If I love the activities that I’ve chosen, but lose motivation easily, I might as well stay on the couch.

In response to that, (and I can’t believe I did this given my attitude towards these types of conversations) I made a productivity spreadsheet.

I found the books I wanted to read and I spread them out through the summer. I’m currently in a Rachel Held Evans book club, so I made a column dedicated to each week’s reading. In addition, I’ve been reading the Brothers Karamazov since January 2018, so I made 4 columns for the 4 chapters I’d like to read each week. Finally, my professional development reading for the summer is one of David I Smith’s books, and I’d like to read a chapter each week.

Aside from reading, I have exercise that I’d like to be doing, German I’d like to be learning, and YouTube videos I’d like to be making. I’ve set reasonable goals and crossed out weeks where I’ll be away on holiday or at work.

Checking up on this has kept me accountable so far, I now pray that I’ll continue to check it for the next weeks. And if I don’t, it is only my first year with a teacher’s summer break. I have many future years to improve.

I hope your summer stays productive!