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Uncategorized   |   Aug 16, 2011

Mourning the end of summer vacation

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Mourning the end of summer vacation

By Angela Watson

The longer the vacation, the tougher it is to get back in the swing of things. The end of summer break is brutal. I dread receiving the first email about our upcoming professional development days. I cringe when I pull up Google Reader, bracing myself to read about other people’s back to school preparations when all I want to think about is sleep and relaxation. I groan as all my real-life teacher friends in ‘early start’ states regale me with tales of back-to-school woe and remind me of what’s in my very near future.

Philadelphia
Philadelphia

The weeks fly by as my husband and I travel extensively, visiting friends and family, attending weddings, and celebrating our second anniversary. I try to pretend like school and work do not exist. I avoid my blog and website like the plague for almost the entire summer. I return emails when I can put it off no longer, but serious reflection and work? Not happening.

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

I go through this same phase every summer. I want a break– no, I deserve a break. So I take one. And then after a reasonable week or two or three of activities that are blissfully education-free, I find it nearly impossible to get myself back into gear. The break no longer feels like a well-earned indulgence and morphs into a persistant avoidance that hangs over my head so that I can’t enjoy my freedom. I know it’s time to dip my toes back in the work-related waters, but just can’t bring myself to exercise the necessary self-discipline.

Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach

You’d think after 12 consecutive summers of experiencing this phenomenon, I would have figured out how to mourn the end of vacation time and transition smoothly into fall. Yet somehow, each July and August, I am always stunned by my own inability to face reality.

Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon

After a particularly unproductive couple of days reading celebrity gossip and fashion blogs while lying on the couch and eating Snickers Peanut Butter Squares, I realize that avoiding work is only going to make things worse. Relaxing is not all that fun when you haven’t done anything strenuous in between. The only way to feel good about the way I’m spending my time is to face the tasks at hand.

Las Vegas
Las Vegas

I remind myself that I love what I do. No, I won’t enjoy getting up early in the morning when the sky is still dark and there’s a chill in the air. But I know that I’m fulfilling my purpose when I do it anyway. I’m changing lives. I’m helping kids and teachers. My efforts make a difference.

Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale

This summer has been all about pleasure: a time of indulging the senses and doing what I feel like doing. But the reward for pleasure is only immediate. Its effects fade quickly.

New York (Madison Square Park)
New York (Madison Square Park)

Gratification is something different. An honest day’s work spent meeting the needs of other people produces true gratification, and is satisfying in ways that linger on long after the discomfort is a distant memory. Truly gratifying acts create a sense of purpose and productivity that sustain us through the hard parts of life and leave us with a deep sense of contentment and meaning.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica
Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

It’s time for work. I know it won’t always feel good in the moment, but it will feel good at the end of the day, to know that I’ve used my energy for something that lasts and means something. I am embracing the work.

Playa Coco, C.R.
Playa Coco, C.R.

I’m telling myself that I’m ready to create change. I’m ready to make an impact. I’m moving forward with purpose instead of resisting the change. I’m focusing on things that matter and loving the opportunities I have to use my gifts and talents.

sam_0436-300x225
Lake Arenal, C.R.

Summer is short.  And that’s okay. If we can keep focused on the big picture, we’ll remember that the season for work doesn’t last long as long as we think, either. More opportunities for relaxation and pleasure will sneak up on us, delighting us with a break from the routine just when we think we can’t go another moment. And until then, we have the gratification of meaningful work to sustain us.

Gulf of Papaguyo, C.R.
Gulf of Papaguyo, C.R.

The feelings of contentment don’t have to disappear just because the summer is ending. Those feelings are always possible…if we choose to stop and pay attention to the meaning of the present moment. We can rush our lives away, waiting for the next instance of short-term pleasure, or we can find satisfaction in whatever is happening here, right now.

Cortez Waterfall, Bagaces, C.R.
Cortez Waterfall, Bagaces, C.R.

I still have a long way to go in the areas of mindfulness, gratitude, self-discipline, and contentment. But the end of each summer always brings another opportunity to practice, and more and more, I find myself valuing the things that bring gratification rather than mere pleasure.

How are you feeling during these dog days of August? What are YOU doing to gear yourself up for another school 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. Thank you for this. After reading several blogs of teachers who just can’t contain themselves because they are so excited to go back to school, I was feeling a little guilty about my own lack of enthusiasm. I’m sure it will be fine after a few weeks, but the transition is rough.

    1. Molly, thanks for commenting, because those are exactly the type of blogs that used to depress me and make me feel guilty, too! Now I remind myself to read them with the hope of tapping into that enthusiasm and positive attitude, and try to stir myself up. Just because I’m not excited about school doesn’t mean that I should feel bad because others are–that’s a total self-imposed guilt trip. Stay focused on the big picture over the next few weeks, because the transition in is the hardest. 🙂

  2. “…more and more, I find myself valuing the things that bring gratification rather than mere pleasure.”
    Wow! What a powerful, wonderful statement. That is one that I will remember and apply to many aspects to my life – not just during back to school.
    I too have the back to school blues…though I will confess: I always get a little excited when I realize it’s time to head out to the office supply store (what teacher doesn’t like to do back to school shopping?). Otherwise though, I have been feeling the same guilt about not wanting to go back when I hear some of my colleagues eagerly discussing their return…So your words and perspective are welcome and refreshing.
    As they always are! I guess the only thing left to do is to take it in stride and start the countdown til the bell rings…

    1. Thank you, Tiffany. I agree that back to school shopping is one of the most fun parts! It’s amazing how some sticky notes, folders, and new pencils can so be reinvigorating. Replacing worn out and broken items tends to get me excited about going back, too. I always look forward to bringing in new pencil sharpeners, etc. 🙂

  3. This time of transition is always difficult for me too. Summer provides a multitude of opportunities for adventure, creativity, hobbies, relaxing, and catching up on things that often get placed on the bottom of my to-do list (or fall off the list all-together) during the busy school year.
    To help myself get motivated to head back to work, I start by creating a new bulletin board idea or putting together a fun, interactive activity for my students. This usually sparks my creativity and gets me excited to look through my files, put together lesson plans, and get things ready for my students.

  4. I, too, am not ready to go back to school! I feel guilty about it, because I love my job. I think this is probably the first time in my life that I’m not itching to get back in a school building. I only just finished working summer school last week, after a tough first year as a school psychologist. But, the excitement will come for both of us! Back to school clothes and supply shopping will probably give me a kick in the pants.

    1. Ah, summer school–no wonder you’re not excited to go back! I don’t think a lack of enthusiasm for returning has anything to do with loving or not loving your job. I think most people find it tough to return from vacation. And in your case, the vacation was very short! I’m sure you’ll get back in the swing of things quickly. Have a wonderful year!

  5. You took the words right out of my mouth!! Right now I’m trying to transition as smoothly as possible from 0 responsibilities to LOTS 😀

    1. That’s the biggest change, isn’t? Preparing yourself for lots of quick decision making again and grappling with all the responsibilities at once. Hang in there! 🙂

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