Yes, I am a teacher writing about summer, but I promise this post won’t be that rant most teachers feel welling up inside when a professional in another field jokes about the unfairness of our summers off. I won’t explain how frustrating and belittling those comments can be. I won’t talk about how much of our lives we pour into our work ten months each year, so that if we didn’t get a break, we’d burn out. I won’t talk about the late nights lesson planning or the weekends spent grading. I won’t mention that we only get paid for the ten months we work, though some of us can choose to take smaller paychecks each month so we’ll still have income over the summer. I won’t bring up those of us that must take summer jobs to make ends meet. I promise. None of that will come up.
Instead, I want to take a moment to talk to my teens, because quite frankly, you’re all right there with me. You have your summer, and most of you have earned it. Those who haven’t really earned it probably aren’t reading this blog, so I’m not going to worry about them. To the rest of you, you get what I mean. The amount of work we do on nights and weekends the rest of the year has effectively prevented many of us from having much of a life. Summers are vital. We need them to avoid burnout and to experience a world beyond the walls of a school. To you, I’m going to let you in on something that isn’t really a secret, but not really something that’s talked about much, either.
Most of the adult world does not have summers off. In just a handful of years, many of you will not have your summers off anymore, either.
Now, I know my overachieving blog readers have heard all the messages of making the most out of your summers – get a job, do an internship, travel, do things that will look good on college applications, blah, blah, blah. Yes, all that is true. Summer is a wonderful, uninterrupted span of time providing the opportunity to do things you couldn’t normally do during the school year. That’s true, but you’ve heard all that before. That’s not my point.
My point is that summers are precious, and if you do find yourself in a profession that gives summers off (which probably means you’ve become a teacher), the rest of the adult world will envy you. Think about it. You have, right now in your possession, something that many professional adults would love to experience. You have two months away from the daily grind. Treasure that. Value that. Do not, whatever you choose to do with your time, take that for granted. So yes, I want you to do something with your summer that helps you experience the world at large. If you can, I want you to go out and take those jobs, internships, and trips, but I don’t want you to do it for the sake of your applications or resumes. I want you to experience life. I want you to step out of your comfort zone and become a better person because of it.
I don’t know what a summer off means for you. It bugs me when people assume my summers off mean complete freedom, so I won’t make that assumption of you, either. However, whatever your circumstances – whether you’re preparing for college, working, spending time with friends, traveling, or just taking it easy – I challenge you to make yourself better this summer.
If you have a job, be your best in that job. Be a professional. If you take a class, do it to learn, not to get a grade. If you’re travelling with family, see what new things you can learn about the world and about each other. If you’re spending time with friends, use that time to make your community a better place. Volunteer together, or learn something together, or explore the world together. Find what makes you excited and pursue it.
Give yourself summers that you’ll be proud to reflect on ten years down the road. Make the rest of the world envious of our summers off, not because we get to be lazy bums for two months, but because we can broaden our horizons for two months, become better people, and create better communities.