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Mindset & Motivation   |   Apr 22, 2014

5 reasons why I stopped the summer break countdown

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

5 reasons why I stopped the summer break countdown

By Angela Watson

UPDATE: This post was written in 2014. Since that time, there’s been quite a bit of “teacher-shaming” online in various places, where teachers are made to feel as if they’re not dedicated to kids if they look forward to their time off.

I wouldn’t write an article like this one today, because I don’t want to add any guilt to teachers’ plates. I’m leaving the original post up because this was in fact my experience–but please know, it does NOT have to be yours. 

I rarely have any idea how many days are left before a special event. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to countdown to anything, from days until a family vacation to days before a holiday. Though some people find it motivating to know how many days they have left, the countdown mentality just hasn’t served me well, especially when I’m anxious for summer break.

Though I don’t have a problem with other people counting down (hey, whatever brings you happiness and keeps you motivated!), I personally prefer to look forward without counting down. Here’s why:

summer-break-countdown

1. Counting days turned the end of the school year into a “sentence” in which I was just biding my time.

Instead of getting up each day with the intention of enjoying my kids, I was just going through the motions and waiting for time to pass.

2. Counting days drained my sense of purpose, which made the school year feel even longer.

Because I was overly focused on the countdown, time seemed to pass even more slowly. I wasn’t focused on helping my students learn anymore, and without that sense of purpose and corresponding accomplishment to motivate me, it felt like I spent all my time on tedious paperwork and assessment tasks. I also had more behavioral problems to deal with, since the kids picked up on my vibe and they, too, assumed no more learning was going to take place. No wonder it seemed like the year was never going to end!

3. Counting days tricked me into believing the time I had left with the kids was insignificant.

Eh, there’s only 24 days of school left, why bother trying something new and innovative with the kids? What’s the point of helping a student understand something I’ve already explained a hundred times—he hasn’t gotten it in the last 156 days, why would he get it now? If I’d dug a little deeper, I would have recalled the times I’d seen huge learning gains or socio-emotional breakthroughs in the course of a single lesson. But instead, I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything worthwhile in the dozens of hours I had left with my students. I let exhaustion shake my belief in my effectiveness as a teacher and my students’ ability to learn and simply gave up.

4. Counting days caused me to miss some of the best opportunities to enjoy my kids.

The end of the school year can actually be a really special chance to connect with students since testing is done and some of the pressure is lessened. I always had a few fun activities planned, but often had a hard time being present with my students because I was so focused on the number of days I had left to get administrative things done. I was mentally checked out and so I missed out on making some awesome memories with my students.

5. Counting days is based on the presumption that today cannot be as good as the future will be.

Because I “couldn’t wait” until the last day of school, I wasn’t focused on what I could have been enjoying or experiencing on the current day. And yet the truth is this: all we have is the present moment. The day we’re hoping for may not arrive, or we might find that our life circumstances are tremendously different when it does, and the carefree fun times we had envisioned never come to pass.  Who can afford to waste the time we have right now by wishing for an unpromised tomorrow? Every single day is a chance to do something meaningful and looks for ways to enjoy doing it.

What are your thoughts–does counting down until the last day of school give you more energy or drain it away? What do you do to stay motivated at this time of year?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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Discussion


  1. I feel the exact same way about countdowns! If you are always counting down to something it takes away the joy of the here and now! Great post !

  2. I agree! Well said. The whole countdown attitude towards anything depresses me. If you’re always looking forward to “one day”, then you miss the potential that is right in front of you.

  3. I absolutely love this! What a great perspective to have! Definitely what I needed to read as a first-year teacher heading into the last month of school – thanks!

  4. With all due respect, and I RARELY respond to these kinds of things, my first thought was “When were you in a classroom last?” I teach IB English and AP English. My angst is directly proportional to spring tests…and then we start talking about senior year and college apps and, and, and, and…Is this perhaps a phenomenon unique to elementary schools? Even when I taught middle school, I never counted down. My husband also says that I will be the one woman who on her death bed says, “I could have worked harder.”

    1. Interesting question, Jennell…IS this a phenomenon unique to elementary schools? I assumed the “only 36 days left!” comments that I hear a lot were common in all schools, but I’ve spent very little time in middle and high school classrooms and really don’t know if that’s typical for secondary teachers. Hopefully some other readers can chime in.

  5. I keep a countdown for two reasons. The first is my three year old son. I can not wait to be able to spend all the days of my summer with him. So, my count down is to keep me motivated to work hard in the days to come because time passes more quickly when you are fully engaged. The second reason I keep a countdown is to remind me that I have so few days left with my kids. I develope such a strong relationship with each of my classes that I dedicate myself to their success especially in the last few weeks after testing to prepare them for next year.

    I will not, put a count on my board anywhere in my classroom. It is only in my personal calendar.

    1. I love your reasoning, Eric, and the way you approach the countdown privately. I know that a lot of students keep their own countdown, but I imagine it would be hard for them to focus on learning when there’s a big sign at the front of the room saying “8 more days!!” LOL. Thank you for sharing.

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