By Aparajitha Suresh, CEI Intern
Teachers don’t ever stop being teachers. From September to June, they face an array of stressors from both an institutional angle (increasing class sizes, shrinking budgets, changing curriculums) and students and their families. In classrooms with students who have experienced trauma, educators are likely experiencing compassion fatigue. Left unaddressed, these stressors can lead to burnout, “causing educators—often the ones who care the most—to leave the field or experience ongoing health issues as a result” (Sims, 2021).
Luckily, summer break offers a much-needed and necessary time to hit pause, rest, and restore. We’ve compiled a list of mindfulness practices to help you have a restorative summer break.
Reflect on the Past Academic Year
According to Dr. Pamela Mason, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, summer offers a “chance to think about what your personal goals were at the beginning of the school year and to take stock of where you are in them now. What were the successes, and what contributed to those successes? What are the remaining challenges—and why are they still challenges?” (Walsh, 2018).
As you reflect, remember to be kind to yourself. No matter how the year went, you have done the best you were capable of, given all the circumstances and roles you were juggling. But also, remember to cultivate hope for better things. Next year offers a fresh start: a time to hold onto the behaviors you are proud of and to change those practices that no longer serve you.
Spend Time Outside
With warmer weather and ample free time, summer break offers the perfect time to reconnect with nature. Whether you’d rather nurture your green thumb in a garden or go for long walks, be sure to spend some time in the sun, soaking up Vitamin D and breathing in the fresh air. To be more mindful with your time in nature, considering leaving your phone behind or putting it on airplane mode to fully experience the sounds of birds and the wind without the distraction of your camera or the lure of social media.
Move Your Body
You may choose to practice mindfulness by hiking through the woods or by doing a restorative or invigorating yoga practice. Movement is good for our mental and physical health as it releases endorphins. To release stress, animals shake their bodies to let go of excess cortisol. Our bodies work in the same way, so get moving to get stress out of your muscles and joints. Dance, run, play.
Do What You Want
As an educator, you’re always meeting needs, meeting expectations, and being accountable. Summer break offers a much needed reprieve. Ask yourself: “What do I want to do?” No matter how silly or small, prioritize your desires, and be intentional about it. This is your time to rest and recharge. Honor your body and honor your interests.
Take a Break from School
Even during summer, there will always be things to do. Perhaps you can attend trainings for professional development or apply for grants to better supply your classroom. Undeniably, these can be important tasks, but save them for later in the summer after you’ve rested. It is important that you take time to unplug for a few weeks and forget about school. Who are you other than a teacher? Reconnect with that person. Can you learn something from yourself?
Remember: this is your time. Take a second and breathe: breathe deep from your belly and relax. Summer won’t last forever. Take advantage of this moment of rest while you can!
Hannay, C. (2014). Calm down and reduce your stress: Tips for mindful (but busy!) teachers. Mindful Teachers.
Sims, J. (2021, March 12). Compassion fatigue: What is it and what can we do about it? Center for Educational Improvement.
Stein, E. (2015). 3 things you can do this summer to be a better teacher this fall. Edweek.
Walsh, B. (2018). A simple summer playbook. Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Walsh, B. (2016). A summer plan. Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Zakrzewski, V. (2013). Can mindfulness make us better teachers? Greater Good.