My last day of school was June 17. In the days leading up to summer vacation, the majority of hallway conversations that I had with colleagues revolved around summer plans. At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice a few snarky “Wow, it must be nice to have the summers off” comments from non-educators and even from one parent.

For years, I have felt the need to justify my summer break to my non-educator friends. I sometimes feel guilty that they have to go to work while I can sleep in (as long as my 2-year-old lets me), read the paper, and hang out with my kids. I have always felt the need to explain all the ways that I was still working (and not just taking a two-month vacation). At a recent get-together with friends, I caught myself saying that I didn’t think I could do my job yearlong. It is too consuming. In other words, I was providing yet another justification for a long summer break.

I have decided that starting now, I am going to change the way that I talk about summer.

Of course, there are plenty of logical defenses for the summer break:

  1. Many teachers work extra jobs during the summer to supplement their income. This is a necessity in single income households.
  2. Many teachers work several unpaid days after the school year ends cleaning and organizing their classrooms. And then they return in August to start preparing curriculum for the new school year. That leaves about 4-6 weeks (not three months) of real (unpaid) vacation.
  3. Many teachers take courses (and pay for them) in the summer to maintain certification and to learn new skills.
  4. Many teachers work 15-20 extra unpaid hours a week during the school year planning, grading, sitting in meetings, and responding to emails. While the summer break is unpaid, at least it creates some breathing room at the end of an exhausting school year.

But I’m tired of feeling defensive. Here is how I am talking about my summer now:

  1. I get to parent my own children during the summer. During the school year, I often get home just in time to eat dinner and put my kids to bed. During the summer, I’m not limited to an hour or two of family time. I spend many hours with other people’s children at school. It’s only fair that my own two kids have some quality time with their dad. This summer we will go camping, play ball in the backyard, and visit local spray parks and wading pools.
  2. I have time, with fewer distractions, to improve my craft. During the summer, I take advantage of workshops and seminars and when possible, international travel. I can fully immerse myself in learning without worrying about papers to grade or lessons to plan. I am currently in Guatemala, traveling with 36 high school students.
  3. I use the summer to work on my own professional projects. I write, do a little consulting work and I design and lead some professional development workshops. This August I am co-facilitating the second annual Global Leadership Summer Institute in Seattle.
  4. I am going to RELAX. I am tired. I am going to take a well-deserved vacation. Ok, a cross-country trip with two kids to visit relatives isn’t the most relaxing experience, but it’s still a vacation. We are heading out to Connecticut and Philadelphia to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I am grateful to have the flexibility in the summer months to set my own schedule, to work at a different pace, to travel, and to spend time with family and friends. And I am done feeling guilty about it.

How are you talking about your summer?

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