Here it is, the day before before the most insane time of year for educators—between Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. December is especially hectic for educators. My guess is that it is something like tax season for accountants, or the holidays for those in the tourism industry. Why is it so stressful? Closing out all projects, tests, assignments by the end of the year. Preparing for all the holiday programs, making sure you’ve communicated with parents, inspiring kids not to lose steam in these last weeks. Trying not to lose steam yourself. You have a number of personal obligations as well. Party planning, holiday shopping, meal planning, decorating, and the list goes on...
At the tail end of this Thanksgiving holiday I’m reminded how very important is to take full advantage of every break you get. As an educator you do not have a very flexible schedule. Of course, you get all the major holidays and summer. Non-educators don’t realize how very little wiggle room there is in those other days, and how many teachers are working in their rooms or teaching summer school during the hot summer days. For both teachers and administrators it is often more difficult to take a day off than it is just to come to work and keeping things moving. So whenever you get those amazing days that have been gifted you by your District Calendar Committee, I beg you to take absolute full advantage of them. It’s not being lazy, it’s being smart. And it’s good for your students to have a rested teacher than a strung out one.
Here are some tips (inspired by my own behaviors this break):
1) That home project that’s been on your To-Do list for half a year:
When you have 3-4 consecutive days off you can really accomplish some of those tasks around the house that you’ve been meaning to do. To make the most of this time, plan ahead of time what supplies you may need or order materials online. That way during your break you’ll make the most of your time and the home project can be fun and relaxing vs. stressful. Here I am in the middle of a furniture project that I spent 6 months planning and about 5 hours actually doing, and it turned out alright.
2) Netflix binge:
I will admit that I am 6 episodes in to Jessica Jones and I only started watching it yesterday. Netflix binging during the middle of a workweek or even on a regular weekend can feel like a colossal waste of time, but on holiday I find it restorative! It’s an escape and can keep you in vacation mode, sometimes against your will. Some of us workaholics need that from time to time.
You know you’re an educator when you wake up at 7 AM and you’ve “slept in”. Sleeping is really important. On my first day of this break I kept falling asleep and I think that was just my body’s way of helping me not to get sick and to get as much rest as possible. Sleeping is always important but the holidays give you a time to really catch up on ZZZ’s that you may have been shorted throughout the year.
4) Time with Family & Friends:
Family and friends are what the holidays are for! So spend time with people wisely. When you’re with them, be with them. This holiday my family did the StoryCorps Great Thanksgiving Listen. Instead of staring at our phones, we used them to record our family history.
Set up an autoresponder on your work email and then don’t look at it. This is not possible in all professions but it is fairly safe in ours. It’s not easy but it will help you to recharge. If you push your work emails to your phone, turn off that feature temporarily and then reload it when you return to work.
These are just a few tips on making the most of your breaks when you get them. I hope that this Thanksgiving you have rested to your fullest potential and you are entering this completely mad time of year with all the energy that it’s going to take to make it to the other side. This next little section of the calendar is a sprint to the longest break inside the school year. Let’s make the most of our work at school so that we can make the most of our lives at home.
At some point in your life, you made a decision to become an educator. You knew that you would be overworked and underpaid. You knew that you would have students who tested every bit of your patience. You knew that you would have parents that didn’t agree with you.
But you did it anyway. Despite the hard work, that student that was such a challenge is actually the one you will talk about for the rest of your career. The one you will be most curious about and the one whose parents tell you “If it wasn’t for you, he wouldn’t want to come to school.” You found that at the end of the day most parents are just trying to figure out what’s best for their students. You became a parent, and you understood. You made the decision to become an educator knowing there wasn’t going to be a whole lot in it for you.
Someone may have asked you at some point “Why are you a teacher? You could have been a doctor or lawyer.” What they are really saying is that you are too smart to be a teacher. Too smart to be in a profession where you would be lost in the crowd, where there is little reward or compensation, and where people don’t view you as a professional. Where people will tell you how to do your job, because they don’t trust that you can do it on your own.
Maybe you do want something more, for greater rewards or recognition, compensation, or to be promoted in your organization. You’ve only got one way to go: administration. You find that you are a little further away from students, which is why you got into it in the first place. Those moments from the field that keep you invigorated, the way students light up when they are excited about a subject or when they win the academic competition they have worked on all year, those moments become fewer & fewer the further up the ladder you go. You’re not as close to them, but you do get to see many more of them, and you can hopefully make them happen for more students, more often. Administrators, I hope that you lead teachers with your same passion that you can inspire, support, and empower.
We’ve got a lot of problems. Bureaucracy, lack of resources, lack of time, lack of support. Always lack. It’s time we flipped this deficit thinking of ourselves and think in terms of abundance. If we all carry around the weight of the whole system on our shoulders it’s amazing that we come to work at all. What if you had abundant resources? Abundant time? Abundant support? What if you could work beyond the constraints of the bureaucracy to be your fullest self? To reach your ultimate potential as an educator and as a person?
You’ve picked a profession that will leak into all areas of your life. It’s the paper you grade while you watch Scandal, but you put it down and have to start over because who are we kidding, it’s really hard to do anything while watching Scandal. It’s the kid you can’t stop thinking about because you could have done more to help them. It’s the professional organizations you’re involved in or the twelve committees you’ve been asked to lead.
I am writing this blog to give you back your time, to help you unlock the resources that are available to you, and to give you the tools to push through the madness to a place where you can reconnect to the reasons you made the decision to become an educator in the first place. It is my hope that you will find tools here that will help you move into a new career for yourself. One where you are empowered, supported, and can create the best possible education for your students and the best life for yourself. Despite the jungle of paperwork, committee meetings, emails and policies-this is still the best gig around. My hope is that together we can remember this on even the toughest days.
Education careers are tough. These entries are dedicated to making the lives of educators easier and empowering those who have chosen this path to reach their potential in work and life.