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A very good friend and long-time hiking partner has been posting photos of her and her partner’s most recent hiking / camping excursions on Facebook, and I’ve been getting jealous — mostly just because I’m teaching a summer class and don’t have time to get out on the trail myself! One of the things that relatives and acquaintances often say, when the topic of work and vacations comes up, is “oh, you must love having those long summers… I wish I could afford to just take three months off to do what I want!” 

Well, let me tell you folks, very few college instructors outside the elite ranks of tenured faculty can “afford” to take the summers off; when I was working on my doctorate, I allowed myself one summer of relative indolence, shuttling between part-time jobs and calculated use of the credit card in order to put in some time on the hiking trail. I had spent my teens, college years, and post-college years working a disaster-restoration job that often required 60+ hour weeks during the summers. I was 25 and hadn’t had a summer “off” in 10 years; I figured it was the perfect time to enjoy my first summer on the West Coast.  I didn’t regret it at the time, and I certainly don’t regret it now.

After that, I followed a calculated pattern; when I had doctoral exams to prepare for in the fall (my program conducted one 8 hour exam just prior to the start of the fall term), I tried to live off of savings while studying. I was able to land summer teaching positions for the other summers, so the balance worked out well, on the main.

But having taught an exhausting course last summer, defending the dissertation and shifting into a full teaching load, then taking up another summer class, well…even the most inventive and passionate teacher needs a break! I’ve had a great class with some amazing students this summer — they’re thoughtful, engaged (very rare in summer classes), and eager to build their skills. Even so, when the summer term ends in a few weeks, and there’s a three-week window between starting fall prep week, I’m looking forward to hitting the beach, doing a little camping, and enjoying the summer sun. Or possibly taking a nap.

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