Activities to Make the Most out of Your Summer
One of the main challenges educators face during the summer is how to take a step back from teaching to relax, recharge, and enjoy their vacation. From reflecting on the highs and lows of the previous school year to jumping headfirst into professional development to planning for the upcoming school year, summer can disappear before teachers get a chance to fully appreciate it. For advice on how to avoid these pitfalls and make the most out of your time off, we sat down with some of the newest Responsive Classroom consulting teachers to learn about what they do to take full advantage of their summer. Here is some of their advice.
Make Time for Yourself
One key ingredient for finding pleasure in your summer is to carve out time just for yourself and your personal passions. This is especially relevant for educators, who spend so much of their working hours in the service of others’ needs.
Susanna Mellor: I love to read, and that’s an escape for me. I like all kinds of books, but I love getting lost in a novel that has a plot that’s kind of complicated because there is a kind of mindfulness in not being able to think about anything else. It’s like following a complicated recipe where you have to focus on each individual step.
Vonn Nguyen: One of my favorite things to do is knit. I like to listen to podcasts while I knit, but knitting can also take me outside. I can sit at the beach and do it, or I can sit on my couch and do it.
Amy Stenlund: I’m really passionate about being creative and also sharing that passion with people. I like to make cards and send them to others. I create a design with rubber stamps, and then sometimes I’ll use watercolor, alcohol markers—which is the same medium that comic book artists use—or colored pencils.
Michael Kaponyas: My goal last summer was to practice piano a few days a week. It was great. Instead of being sucked into scrolling on my phone, I practiced with an app that is kind of like Guitar Hero but with piano keys. I really appreciated it, and it is my goal to do more piano playing over this summer.
Meaningfully Connect With the Important People in Your Life
While alone time is crucial, setting aside time that is devoted just to friends, family, and other loved ones has its own unique rejuvenating powers.
Vonn Nguyen: I have two daughters. They’re both in high school. Every year, we look for that one thing we haven’t done yet in San Francisco or in the Bay Area. A couple of years ago we tried the baths in Japantown. We also love trying new restaurants. Another thing we like to do is pick fruit. The summer is strawberry-picking season. It’s the best thing for my family and me. We just love to be out there.
Emily Achilles Stefanich: I make a summer bucket list for myself that has non-school-related things and this year will include a lot of following my toddler around and doing whatever she wants to do. We will probably go to the aquarium, go to a petting zoo, go to a farm stand, and I usually do something weird like let my toddler pick out some ingredients at the grocery store and then we make a meal out of that.
Amy Stenlund: I like to send cards to people. It’s a hobby I started a long time ago, and then over the pandemic it became even bigger. It connects me to other people because I can create something that I can give to somebody else. If I mail a card to somebody or give them something that I made, I think it really helps them feel good because it feels good to get something handmade and know that somebody is thinking about you.
Along with being a source of pleasure, food can have transformative effects: it can bring us closer to the people we care about, to our local environment, and to the present moment.
Susanna Mellor: I love to look for new recipes to make for my family or to share with other people. I like to have a big batch of something good in the fridge, like a big pitcher of gazpacho, so that if I have someone over I can spend time visiting with them rather than being in the kitchen cooking.
Vonn Nguyen: Summertime is all about backyards in California, so I like to do a lot of DIY type of food parties with my family. We are Vietnamese, and so we love to grill all kinds of protein and then set up a spring roll bar with rice paper. I just set out everything and then you make your own; guests love being able to actively participate in the meal. We do taco bar barbecues as well.
Sarah Tiamiyu: I go home to Edmonton, Alberta, to feed my soul, but I also quite literally feed myself. I love all my Canadian snacks, like poutine. Also, in the province of Alberta we’re known for our red meat. I’m not a vegetarian, but when I’m in the U.S. I find that I don’t eat very much red meat; when I go home, I get my fix.
Emily Achilles Stefanich: I have a tradition on the last day of school where I get up super early and I take myself out to breakfast. It is my treat to myself for making it through the school year. I try to brainstorm and pick somewhere special. One year, I got really big doughnuts that were the size of my face! I usually try to pick a local restaurant.
- Michael Kaponyas is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and teaches kindergarten at BASIS Independent Brooklyn in Downtown Brooklyn, New York.
- Susanna Mellor is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and teaches first grade at an independent school in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Vonn Nguyen is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and is in her seventh year teaching kindergarten in a K–8 public parent-participation school in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Emily Achilles Stefanich is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and the district curriculum coordinator for Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative School District.
- Amy Stenlund is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher.
- Sarah Tiamiyu is a Responsive Classroom consulting teacher and the K–6 director of Learning Support at The Potomac School.