The day after school officially ended, I found myself picking out paint. For my classroom.
Clutching the little cardboard paint color squares, I realized that I was being an idiot.
What am I doing? I thought. It’s SUMMER. More importantly, it’s summer BREAK.
As in, take a break from thinking about your classroom. As in, take a break from thinking about the new principal. As in, take a break from anything related to school.
That break, I decided, was going to be called July.
I dropped the paint samples off at school, resisted the temptation to organize my books that had just been heaped into my new room, and walked out, determined not to come back, think about, or even talk about school until August.
It’s been a challenge, to say the least.
I went to Maui for two weeks, and while I was lazily floating about the pool, I would suddenly think, “How can I incorporate Kwame Alexander’s poems into our Shakespeare unit?”
Then I’d dunk my head underwater, because it was No School July.
As I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I kept drafting emails in my mind to try and convince our district that it should be required reading for every teacher and high school student, because it is mind blowing and they need to.
Then I would try and focus on the swaying palms and the coos of the zebra doves because, No School July.
I went on a date while in Maui. Our table was situated so we could watch the ships and surfers, and beyond that, the beginnings of an amazing sunset. As I sipped my Mai Tai, my date reached across the table, squeezed my hand and said, “you’re beautiful.”
I nodded, put down my drink, and said, “I think I want to switch up the font I use for my bulletin boards.”
Not thinking or talking about school, I found out, was pretty damn hard.
I think, for a lot of teachers, reflection on their practice is just part of us. That includes the physical space, too. At the end of every school year, I know that the major questions on my mind revolve around, “what can I do better next year?”
And that question persists, all summer long. It drives us to restructure lesson plans and units. It makes us scroll through hundreds of pins on Pinterest, looking for ideas and inspiration. That inspiration takes us to bookstores, Target, and Ikea, where we spend what little money we have for the summer on more classroom decor and teaching materials.
It’s hard to turn that part of my brain off, because at this point, I’m pretty sure I’m like, 89% teacher. This profession has wiggled its way into my DNA or something and has become a major part of who I am as a person.
But, in the spirit of self care, I had to take a break. It was important to me to reflect on me as a person. A reader. A writer. A friend. A daughter. A person who loves trashy magazines by the pool, watching movies about the royal family (seriously, I read one book about the Tudor dynasty back in middle school and I’ve been oddly obsessed with the whole monarch idea every since), discussing Jon Snow’s parentage (I say Baratheon because Targaryen seems too easy) and of course, hanging out with my dog who is still giving me side eye for not taking him to Maui with me.
No School July has not been a total success, I admit it. Like I said, teaching becomes a part of you, almost like a fifth limb that is made of Expo markers and Post-It notes. So it’s hard to ignore it. But even making a concentrated effort has helped me recuperate and put myself back together again as a whole person.
I urge you to really take summer break and use it as just that: a break. I get that we don’t all have the luxury of taking a whole month off (especially you brave warriors who went back for summer school, you gluttons for punishment, you), but take a week. Three days. One evening where you turn that 89% of your brain off and let the other 11% shine through. It’ll feel weird, trust me. But in the end, it’ll feel worth it.