The 5 Stages of Summer Break Grief for Teachers

It’s the end of May. All you want is a cold drink and some lake action (or just a nap, a nap would be really nice). We know. We’ve all been there. Once that last bell rings, YOU ARE ON SUMMER BREAK. And it’s glorious. A whole summer break, all for you. You deserve it. Treat yo’self.

After Memorial Day weekend, reality sets in:

THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY DAYS IN A SUMMER BREAK. THERE ARE ONLY ROUGHLY 8 WEEKS OF SUMMER BREAK! If you subtract the week you spend catching up on sleep and Netflix (or that new Romeo and Juliet show? Shonda, what are you doing to me?!), and then you subtract at least one week of worrying about the last week, and then the last week of summer break… that’s down to 5 weeks. Then there’s the vacation with the fam, another week. There’s a recovery week after that. We’re down to 3 weeks. And we all know that you’ve already scheduled that away (maybe at the Dollar Spot at Target, but it still counts!).

Summer break… you tricky minx, you sly fox, you dandelion: here for a moment, gone with the wind the next…

During all that busyness, you grieve. And you grieve some more. Here’s how you do it.

1. Escaped-With-Your-Life Survivor Mode

When that last bell rings, you pack your bag and run to your car, no turning back. You have escaped another year with your life and only a few more gray hairs. You are a survivor.

You celebrate, but the exhaustion is heavy on your bones. You spend a few days recuperating so you can fully enjoy your summer. You sleep in, or at least try to, but those early mornings have you all messed up. Soon you realize that you can pee whenever you want, and you feel like you’re getting away with something illegal. You don’t quite make brunch plans yet because the Pavlovian routine in you is still thinking that there’s probably something to be done during the morning hours like gradecopytalkteachrungather…


Like a rescue dog, finally settling down in its new home, summer becomes bliss. You do brunch. You do vacation. You buy frivolous things for your house, not your classroom. You even Jersey Shore it a bit with GTL: gym, tan, laundry (three things you absolutely NEVER had time for before!). Summer is good. You’ve seen approximately ZERO of your students or their families at Walmart. Isn’t it summer every day of the year?! Who knows! Who cares!

3. Denial

Summer lasts forever. It’s a summer miracle. This is how it was always meant to be. It is never going to end. You’re never going back. Not because you don’t want to, just because summer is now eternal: you don’t have to! Ah. Life is joy. “Oh, how silly of you to ask when I’m going back to school… ha ha… I’m not a teacher… ha ha ha… lalalalalalala! I can’t hear you!”


It happens. You finally see a parent or child at the store and you ask, “Are you ready to go back?” Then, they ask you, with glaring gravity, “Mrs./Mr. So-and-So, are YOU ready to go back?”







You should lesson plan or at least try to. But it seems you have no more brain cells dedicated to doing so. Plus, you’re pretty sure you’ve forgotten what a lesson plan looks like and how to write one and what a lesson is and school what is that again can someone help you out?!

Even when strangers say, “Hi, how are you?” you only reply with the number of days you have left, which is such a depressingly small number…

5. Excitement!

But you are a good teacher. You love your students. You love your job. So you sit down one day and decide to do some work. In true Disney-magic-like-wonder, your joy comes back. You have new ideas and plans! You bought a new plant for your room! You are excited to go back once more! You don’t quite have a paper-chain countdown to the first day because seriously it’s summer break let’s squeeze as many BBQs and lack-of-due-dates in that we can… but you’re ready to start a new year, fresh and ready to go!

It’s the middle of July and I’m in stage 5 right now with some latent hints of stage 4. I just bought a succulent wall-hanging from Fun in Fourth’s Etsy Shop so I’m ready to go back and hang it up… In what stage are you?

Mrs. Mac

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