The most frequent comment that I hear when I tell people that I’m a teacher is something along the lines of, “Wow! It must be so nice to have the summers off!” I used to get really defensive and almost angry when faced with these words, and would come back by saying something like, “Well I work all summer!” or “Yeah, but the amount of work I do in 10 months is more than many people do in 12!” blah blah blah…boring. This back-and-forth never ended with the person being like, “Wow, you’re right, it’s not actually nice that you have the summers off,” so why did I feel the need to respond this way?
Recently, my response to the previously mentioned remark is “I know, right? It’s awesome!” Sometimes I’ll even throw in something like, “On top of that, I get holiday breaks too! It’s perfect because I love to travel!” Nobody really ever has something negative to say in response to this reaction, so I’ve just been going with this.
I don’t know why we as teachers feel the need to constantly justify the time off we get. It is in the nature of our job that we signed up for, and people who didn’t choose to become teachers also knew what they were signing up for, so it’s no shock to them or us that they don’t have the summer off.
The truth of the matter is: Teachers get a lot of time off. So, why not take advantage of this time that we don’t need to be at work? I’ve always had this mindset, because since we do have many days off, I can’t take a random week off in October to go to Europe with my friends. So, I love to plan trips for the school breaks, aka my built-in vacation days.
My school district’s breaks aside from the summer include a week in February and a week in April, with some long weekends scattered between. My very first year of teaching, I spent the February break in Bali, Indonesia. Before I left, just about every coworker I told about the trip gave me either a disappointed, confused, or judgmental look. Contrary to these vibes, it was the best thing I ever did for myself and for my students.
So, why should you travel (if you can) during breaks from school?! (Also, travel doesn’t necessarily have to mean going to Bali- it can be local day trips, or being a tourist in your own city- just something out of your norm!)
- It forces the break to actually be a break. When you travel to a new place or do something out of your ordinary routine, your mind is focused on this new experience rather than your lesson plans or quizzes that you need to grade. I firmly believe that breaks from school should be treated as they are called, breaks. Therefore, getting out of your normal routine gives you no choice but to do something other than the norm. Going back to school after a week of travel or new activities not only gives you a more refreshed feel, but it also helps you appreciate your norms for what they are since you were able to take a break from them.
- It allows you to take a step back and remember the “big picture.” In the day to day routine of my classroom, I get so caught up on the little things. Should I have included that difficult math problem on the test? Which reading response should I assign for homework? Did I remember to file those papers? Traveling to a new place always helps me, not forget these littler things, but remember that I went into teaching to make a difference in the lives of my students, and sometimes stepping away from all the small, less important things, helps you re-focus on the big picture. I always come back from breaks with a fresh perspective and feel like a much better teacher for it.
- You will have tons to teach & share with your students. Sharing your travels & experiences with your students can be incorporated into so many academic realms- geography, math, history, art, science, reading- you name it. Also, I find that students are way more willing to pay attention when you as a teacher share a real-life experience, and incorporate pictures or stories. It makes everything more exciting and real. I created a whole mini-curriculum based on my trip to Indonesia and my students went wild for it- that will require an entirely separate blog post to explain. But my point is, the kids will love being able to take a look into what you did during the break.
So, the next time you tell someone that you’ve decided to travel during the upcoming school break and they say something like, “I don’t know how you’ll manage, I need the entire break just to catch up on alllllllllll my grading,” just smile and say, “I’m doing it for the students.”