Summer Vacation 101: The Teacher’s Essential Guide

Charles VerheyELA

June 18, 2019
Aimee Ross

“June, July, and August. The three reasons I became a teacher.”

Said no teacher ever.

How do I know? Because I am one—high school English, btw—and not once in my 27-year career have I ever uttered that sentence or given those reasons. Summer vacation is merely something I enjoy as a byproduct of my career, which chose me, also btw. But this isn’t about why I became a teacher.

This is about what teachers everywhere will be doing this summer. I was interested, so I asked.

It was an informal survey, yes, and done through Facebook, of course, but still. Twenty current teachers at all grade levels from across the nation responded, and that’s a pretty good cross sample size, I think.

Enough to know this: Teachers are not going to be spending their summers only relaxing.

They will be in trainings or professional development, taking online classes, or rewriting lesson plans. Some will be leading workshops or teaching summer sessions or creating future professional development for colleagues. And lots will be traveling—for study or for fun—to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Philippines, and Tanzania; to Missouri, Lake Erie, Utah, and Michigan; to Washington, DC, or NYC; maybe an amusement park somewhere. Others will be doing all of the above while still trying to fit in quality time with their children, softball tournaments, and projects, whether for the home or 4H. There’s also running and gardening and cleaning and reading. Maybe pool time.

So, in that case, colleagues, here’s your essential guide for surviving three months “off” this summer “doing nothing.”

  1. Get the calendar out now—right this second, you heard me—and schedule some personal time for just you around all those trips and trainings, softball games, and 4H meetings.
  2. While the calendar is still out, plan the days around your personal time for hobbies and routine—but only a couple per week. You’ll need to feel that you accomplished something, after all. But leave the weekends alone; those are for family or pool time or summer social events.
  3. Check into cheap cleaning services in your area or hire a trustworthy teenager who doesn’t have a summer job. Why spend your time cleaning when you already have so many other things going on? Unless it’s your form of stress relief, and in that case, if you live in Ohio, please email me.
  4. Have kids? Research summer camps or events, even if they are only a few hours long, so you can get some “you” time. Trust me—it is necessary and not selfish. Not when you look at the benefits and big picture.
  5. Consider a quick way to make some cash for all the home projects you’d like to accomplish this summer. Garage sale? Lemonade or coffee stand? A part-time job at the local ice cream shop?
  6. Once you’ve dug in to your reading pile, consider starting your own little free library somewhere. Get your kids to help—and if it’s near your lemonade/coffee stand, well, that doubles the fun (and maybe the profits).
  7. Create a super space for just you somewhere—anywhere—even if it’s small. Make it a fun project and scour clearance bins for décor of any kind. Make it a spot where you can plan or relax, read or write, maybe just sip your tea in peace. 
  8. If you have a garden, or have decided this will be the summer you’re putting one in, find a buddy to help share the workload and produce. Plenty of people out there want to garden, they just aren’t sure where to start or how to do it. Partnering up can fix that!
  9. Consider starting a blog as a place to store all of your workshop and PD ideas, travel stories and photos, or details of summertime projects. Not only does writing it provide an easy record of what you’d like to remember, but others can also reap your rewards when you post, too.
  10. Don’t go buy more office supplies to keep you company in all of those trainings, workshops, or summer study programs. Raid your own classroom to use up the highlighters, sticky notes, paperclips, flash drives, folders, pens, and notebooks that are left over from years prior.
  11. Have a glass of wine in the evening, maybe even in your super space, to help you relax before a full day of summer trainings or workshops or meetings. If you’re worried about the wine’s effects, maybe wait until you get home from that full day. Then pour yourself two.
  12. Finally, splurge. Get that mani-pedi—especially before you travel. We barely have time during the school year for our hands and feet, and they make us feel pretty. You, too, guys. And hey, while you’re at it, get your brows waxed, your hair trimmed, and your roots colored. Nothing makes a person feel more refreshed than a little beautifying. If you’re really feeling fancy, eyelash extensions not only look fabulous, but they also solve the summer swim problem of runny mascara.

In closing, and in the immortal words of Alice Cooper, “School’s out for summer.”

Make it a good one.

Aimee Ross

Aimee Ross is a nationally award-winning educator and writer who teaches secondary English at her high school alma mater in Loudonville, Ohio. Her first book, Permanent Marker: A Memoir (KiCam Projects), came out last March, and she has had numerous essays published online and in anthologies. Aimee is a former regional educator for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and teacher consultant for the National Writing Project at the local level. Learn more at