When you’re a teacher, acquaintances in other professions envy you because, like your students, you get a long “vacation” every summer. On the other hand, most of it isn’t paid vacation—and, like your students, you probably also face the risk of “summer brain drain” eroding key skills from lack of use
Many teachers do this anyway, for purely economic reasons. But the benefits needn’t stop at putting more income in your household budget. Look for something in a field relevant to your teaching work: daycare; libraries; YMCAs; amusement centers or coffee shops with customers your students’ ages; restaurant cooking if you teach home economics, or a research lab if you’re a science teacher.
Not just mindless “summer reading” entertainment, but books (fiction and nonfiction) that make you think. Also read the books that are popular with kids your students’ ages, to better understand how they think.
Look for options covering education- and child-relevant topics, also your particular teaching specialties.
Even small towns have specialty museums. Take notes on interesting facts you can use in future teaching.
Contact with other species builds empathy for human variety and a greater understanding of the whole world. If you don’t have a pet, this might be a good time to adopt one (most animal shelters get a flood of puppies and kittens every summer). Other options: join dog-walking neighbors on their morning strolls, take up bird watching, plant a wildlife garden, visit your local zoo weekly.
You may lose contact with your work peer group over the summer. To keep your people skills active, strike up a conversation with neighbors, or call an old friend and suggest meeting for coffee.
If your old friend lives in another state, consider planning a visit. Or spend a few days at a state park or bed-and-breakfast. To provide even more sights and learning opportunities (and to slow life’s hectic pace), travel by car.
From cooking a new recipe to building a new patio, creative projects sharpen intelligence and strengthen self-confidence.
Buy a book of crosswords or word-searches; they’re great for filling your down time while keeping your mind sharp.
Healthy bodies help brains stay effective and uncluttered. Eat good food, get your daily exercise, and don’t stay up late every night.
Invite your own children—or neighborhood children your students’ ages—to join you in any of the above.
Finally, don’t let your summer turn into a pile of hard work and to-do lists! Protecting your brain from atrophy won’t do much good if you instead wear it out with overuse. Take time to relax and “do nothing” without feeling guilty. Your next class of students wants a reasonably easygoing teacher!