Taking Off This Summer

As our school years finally end, and as we wrap up our culminating meetings in preparation for a quieter summer, I’m reminded of this powerful internal tool that allows us to recharge these next couple of months: the off-switch.

For teachers, the off-switch may be an easier sell. Time away from school will allow teachers to downshift from the higher-octane part of themselves–planning lessons, developing curriculum, managing students’ needs, building and maintaining classroom culture, promoting equity and cultural responsiveness to give all students access. If anything, this time of year reminds us there’s a reason teachers need time away from work before they begin again in August: this profession, while rewarding, also is exhausting, and in order to keep pace with “on” months, teachers need that time off for personal care and professional recharging–time to choose how to spend their days and what they most need to focus on. Time off is not the luxury most outside the teaching profession believe it is; it’s a necessity.

For school leaders, the off-switch might be the harder sell. As leaders are closing up shop, they’re already looking ahead to the next school year: building schedules, planning fall reconnection meetings, looking at needs for the months ahead. So while the days still may be busy with planning, there is a rhythm to these summer months that begs for something different–for the time off and away, for slowing down, for paring the work to the essentials, and for breathing more deeply.

So whether you are a teacher who is taking some much needed time away from the classroom, the school leader who is building a vision for the year ahead, or any of the myriad people who work in schools throughout the year, consider the following advice as you sculpt your off-switch muscles:

Sleep a little later and/or take naps. Yeah, you read me right. What would it mean to set that alarm a little later, to let your body know that we’re not in that school cycle at the moment? What would it mean to reorient your schedule and routines in service of resting more? What about that 20-minute power nap (or longer) in the afternoon? In fact, moments of more rest can allow for greater brain functioning and creativity. So what would it mean to hit snooze for a bit or take a snooze when time permits?

Build in time for pleasure reading, personal work, creative tasks, or even nothing–and leave the devices behind. Everyone has a different approach to personal care, and in the summer, one can get a little more generous with feeding this need. While it’s always good to keep up with some professional literature, summer is a time to stack up some beach reads, head to the movies, play, explore, meander, or as I like to call it, have “off the grid” days. What would it mean to leave electronic devices at home for a day? For those who are fans of structure, what would it mean to schedule an “off the grid” hour or two each day? Even sitting and staring off into space is an opportunity to let go in service of self-care.

Learn a new skill or reconnect with parts of yourself that have been dormant. This is a great time of year to stretch a bit, to delve into something that you’ve had your eye on for a while but haven’t had the time to devote to it. Pick up that instrument that has been gathering dust; pump up those bike tires or soccer balls or lace up your running shoes; take a food and beverage course; come out of hibernation and call your friends for an outing on a “school night”; head to an exhibit you’ve put off for months. The novelty of something different or out of routine will allow you to reset and retrieve pieces of yourselves that can get lost in the shuffle of school years.

Sign up for a CATDC workshop. I would be remiss if I didn’t plug the wide range of opportunities CATDC offers this summer. These workshops allow you to stay connected to your work while feeding your professional soul. Whether learning how to promote greater access and build empathy through Equity as Excellence, hone your newer-to-teaching needs through Teaching Foundations, convene with colleagues at our Transformational Coaching Symposium, polish your team-building skills at Mastering Group Facilitation, attending one of these workshops will allow you to personalize your growth path and help you consider meaningful goals for the year ahead.

Whatever you choose to do, may your summers be full of creativity, connection, meaningful professional development, and a whole lot of off time.

Lori Cohen has worked in education (both public and independent) for two decades and currently serves as the Dean of Faculty at the Bay School of San Francisco. Prior to her current role at Bay, Lori taught Humanities, Literature, and Religion/Philosophy courses; served as an Instructional Coach; and was the founder/coordinator of Bay’s Teaching Fellows program. This will be Lori’s sixth year as a co-facilitator/teacher leader in Teaching Foundations, a program that brings her joy and professional rejuvenation. In addition to facilitating professional development, teaching, and leading, Lori actively works towards equity and social justice in education, striving to offer access and pathways for all school stakeholders to thrive.