Achieve, believe, and cherish your downtime
By Mary Lou Rosien
I ran into one of my daughter’s former teachers in the grocery store. I asked how her summer was going and what she was doing with her summer downtime. “What downtime?” she replied. She was transitioning into teaching a different grade and explained that all her extra time would be used toward the transition.
Many teachers use the summer months either to organize their lessons and classrooms for the coming year or to enhance their skills and knowledge in their area of professional expertise. This completely dispels the idea that teachers only work nine to 10 months a year, but you already knew that!
It is not that most educators are forced into additional work over the summer months, but rather that these dedicated professionals choose to further their own education, enhance their skills, or even teach when they have a few months available to them.
However, even the busiest teachers can find some time from June through August to pursue other activities. So, what exactly can teachers do during their summer months? It seems to come down to the ABCs of summertime: Achieve, Believe, and Cherish.
Summer provides an opportunity to dedicate time to accomplish different things.
Attend camps and conferences for adults
Dr. Anthony Cook, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Rochester, notes that many of his teachers participate in camps or conferences over the summer.
Work a second job or pursue a second career
Having two or three consecutive months off in the summer lends itself to pursuing other dreams and careers. For some this means freelance work in another field or classes toward a degree.
Prepare for the next year
Updating lesson plans, cleaning and reorganizing classrooms, or transitioning to teaching another grade requires time that is not easily found during the school year. The slower pace of summer provides a chance to step back and look at what has worked (or not) and what needs to be changed or improved upon.
TheCurriculumCorner.com offers free time management and organizational tips for teachers. They encourage conversation and sharing tips without cost to other teaching professionals.
Clean and organize at home
Cleaning out your home and closets or even preparing for life changes, such as a move or the arrival of a new baby, fits better into the slower summer months. Some teachers interviewed even tried to time their pregnancies so they would miss the least amount of time from school and maximize their time at home with a new baby! One article on “The Bump” put it this way:
If you work in education or are currently taking courses yourself, planning a baby in the summer can be ideal to give yourself as much time at home with your child as possible. I have several friends who’ve been lucky enough to time their babes either right before, during, or after a summer break, enabling them to tack on their maternity leave to the beginning or the end of the summer break, giving them several additional months of being home with their child.
Spend more time with the Lord
Less-congested schedules mean more time to deepen your walk with God. Participating in a summer program like Beloved or Christ Life, going to daily Mass, or having time to add a family Rosary can be a blessing. One family said they like to visit local shrines and visit different churches to give a different flavor to their Mass experience.
There are many opportunities locally and across the globe to volunteer for causes you believe in. From working at a local soup kitchen to going on a church-sponsored or private mission trip, the opportunities are endless. Groups such as Food for the Poor work with laypeople to organize Catholic mission work in places like Haiti, India, and others. Groups like Discover Corps organize trips that combine causes (such as protecting elephants in Thailand or sea turtles in Costa Rica) with tourism and a vacation. You are only limited by your imagination and your pocketbook.
If taking a trip is too lofty a goal, consider that many teachers volunteer their skills as teachers to tutor students living in poverty.Contact local churches or relief organizations to find volunteer opportunities that meet specific interests.
Set new goals; believe you can be the change you want to see
Summertime is a perfect opportunity to take inventory of the things you would like to change in your life and set goals accordingly. Each of us needs a road map to see where we are going. Looking at where you are and where you would like to be can help you establish what mountains (metaphorically or physically) you want to climb:
- Develop your prayer life.
- Get in shape.
- Learn a new skill.
- Overcome a fear.
Spend time with family and friends
Other teachers described the joy in watching their own children play over the summer months. Relaxing poolside or going on family vacations recharges their batteries. Without the stress of homework (for them and their children), they can stop and relish the time together. They attend sporting events or cheer on their own kids as they play soccer or baseball.
Participate in a sports team. Adults like to play too! The warmer months and increased free time provide the perfect opportunity to join a team or activity for grown-ups.
An evening or afternoon out to do a painting with a twist class or a wine and design class to celebrate friendships or a special date with your spouse can brighten even a starry night.
Speaking of starry nights, how about an evening at the local planetarium? If that’s out of reach, a backyard telescope, a thermos of hot chocolate, and a blanket can create a perfect night of August meteor-shower watching.
Summer days can be appreciated by taking train rides, long car trips, or pretending you are a visitor in your own hometown. Investigate what local events and tourist attractions can be found in your own backyard.
Traveling is an activity that many teachers enjoy, as well. Stepping back and getting a broader perspective, even visiting places you teach about enhances your own knowledge and appreciation of the world.
Many of us are too busy reading journals, homework assignments, or career-related information from September through June to find the time to read for pleasure. Pull that pile of books off your bedside table, find a comfy spot in the shade, pour yourself some iced tea, and read for fun! Whether you want to jump into Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, or a contemporary Catholic author, grab your library card, tablet, or Kindle, and go!
Whatever type of book interests you, there are lists online from Amazon to The New York Times best-seller list to help you find what you are looking for. The Catholic Writers Guild offers a list of current Catholic authors who have earned the Guild’s Seal of Approval.
Whatever you chose to do this summer, enjoy the time to achieve, believe, and cherish every minute of what this precious time off has to offer.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Increase the chance of success in attempting a short-term goal:
Choose a measurable goal.
Write it down.
Share the goal or find a partner to accomplish it (accountability).
Reward yourself as you accomplish steps toward your goal.
Be organized and intentional.
Deepen your faith
Summer jobs for teachers
Freelance work as writers, photographers, playwrights, artists
Camps for adults
Mary Lou Rosien is a former English teacher and current substitute teacher, Confirmation teacher, Pre-Cana instructor, and RCIA coordinator/teacher.
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