Summer Limits

I am not going to learn how to code this summer. I am not going to read several of the work-related books on my list. I will not spend too many hours prepping and planning for next year. I will honor the obligations I have committed to that involve other people. I will prepare adequately but not excessively for those tasks.

In June all things seem possible. I knew that my to-do list for the summer was long, but I was genuinely excited to engage all of the items on the list. I have actually made tangible progress. The problem is that it is mid-July and I am more tired than energized. More than once I have found myself losing patience when my home life has gotten in the way of work. That’s par for the course during the school year, but simply not acceptable in the summer. I am losing one of the key benefits of the job – having flexible time off in the summer. I should embrace the fact that I can care for my family without my work suffering, and yet too often I resent it. This is not a healthy place to be halfway through the summer. Exhausted and stressed is to be expected in mid-February perhaps, but not mid-July.

Over the twenty plus years I have been teaching, work has taken over more and more of the summer. I quite enjoy working on school in the summer. It is so nice to have time to read and think on my own schedule. Working with colleagues in the absence of students and bells definitely has great benefits. Still, I realize there is a line. We talk a lot about the balance of home and work during the school year, but the same care needs to be taken with summer. In that spirit, I am taking the better part of the next two weeks and setting work aside. There are a few things I need to do that fall in the category of obligations to others, but I won’t go beyond that.

I started the summer with one goal – to read widely and daily. I will stick with that but I may rethink some of my book choices. Some of the other goals that I tacked on will get set aside. I have been feeling like the child whose eyes are bigger than her stomach at a buffet table. Time to stop, digest and not feel too guilty about what I am leaving on the plate.

I have long known the joys of summer. This year I am really coming up against its limits.


12 thoughts on “Summer Limits

    • Thanks, Mike. I hate to admit my limits to myself or anyone. One reason to write the post is to hold myself accountable. You seem pretty good about taking care of yourself and taking time off when you need it. I have to get better at it.

      • I’m still getting good at it – saying ‘yes’ is an important part of my work, I think, and has led to many great opportunities. But knowing when to say ‘no’ (primarily during the summer, and weekends) has taken time to learn. And I’m still learning!

  1. Dear Molly,

    Three cheers to you for acknowledging a need for time away from work, and for responding to your need by reordering your summertime activity. Good for your own spiritual and physical health, and excellent modeling for your boys. Enjoy your rest, dear history friend!


    • Thanks for the encouragement, Christine. I realized today that I need to do something or I will end up with much accomplished but also in need of a break come September. So – some things are going on hold. I will get back to them in mid-August. I hope you are getting to relax this summer.

  2. Molly,
    Thank you for sharing this much needed reminder. My summer to-do list, mostly work-related was massive, good intentioned, but unrealistic. Then a flooded basement and leaking roof changed, literally, the flow of things. So now I am thinking that I will read two books for PD (Teach like a Pirate, which arrived today and with a skim read I know will be rejuvenating, andJim Knight’s Instructional Coaching since a group of us are going to start collaborating in new ways, again, that get me excited about work), and the rest the fiction that I don’t have the time I would like to spend during the school year. And I am sleeping in, going for long walks, chilling with my son, watching movies and getting together with friends, all favourite activities that often get lost from September to June. Have to enjoy it while we can, and be refreshed and balanced for ourselves, our families, and the new year!

    • Thanks for your comment, Colinda. Substitute leaky, rusted air conditioning unit and you have my summer so far. I realize now how many of us feel the same way midway through summer. I have downloaded samples of several fiction books to take with me to the beach next week. I think at some point, the best thing we can do for our students next year is to take care of ourselves and show up recharged.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I have the same struggle every summer, and I’ve been teaching longer than you! My solution this summer is to read stuff related to teaching only if I’m really interested in the book and it doesn’t feel like work. For instance, I devoured 1861 by Adam Goodheart. Bruce Catton’s The Civil War is sitting in the pile still. Take care of yourself.

  4. Well said, Molly… A few times this summer I have wondered if there have been Twitter chats or, if not, maybe we should do a chat, about how teachers stay balanced. So many discussions about lesson plans and teaching strategies, fewer, it seems, about mental/physical health, though maybe they are out there. I have yet to walk away from school work this summer, but I try to create limits for myself. For ex, I will read for 2 hours a day, write for an hour. And I try to do this in the morning before everyone gets up, or when the family is sleeping. I know these issues are different for each of us, no one sized fits all approach. But definitely important to support each other as much as possible.

    • Thanks, Joe. Balance is one of the topic that comes around to the chats once in a while. We all struggle with it to some degree. I think what really hit me was that it was mid-summer and I was feeling school-year stress. I took on too many things and then had to try to figure out what I could ditch without letting anyone else down. Powering down really helped me. I am beginning to gear up again, happily. I am still enjoying being able to choose when to work and when to play.

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