Friday, December 20, 2013

Exhausted Just In Time For The Holidays

This is going to be one of the more challenging blog entries of my "School Daily" experiment. It's not for a lack of topics; I'm eager to discuss how Accelerated Reader has helped create a culture of reading at our school or perhaps the new mission of our 7th grade English-Language Arts team to acquire ChromeBooks for their classroom or possibly the benefits of our school's behavioral support program, U-Turn, and the reasons behind its success. The truth of the matter is that today was the last day of school before our holiday break and I'm just exhausted, unsure if the words are going to come.

There hasn't been anything out of the ordinary at our school site over the past few weeks since the Thanksgiving holiday. No extra board meetings, nights out, or special projects to prepare. A lot of my days have been spent with students in and out of the office. In fact, I'd even say that the past three weeks have been rather productive and professionally satisfying -- our administrative team has helped address a few key student issues, our staff has been running through the 2013 finish line, and we're receiving more and more positive feedback from our student and parent community about the education and social experience our school provides. And yet for the past few days, building up to (and lasting beyond) today's final bell at 2:50 pm, my body and mind have become increasingly tired and achy.

To me, being an educator during the school year can feel like running one long marathon. From weeks before the start of school, you're planning and preparing for the upcoming first day of school. You look ahead to the schedule and eagerly anticipate the next three day weekend so you can catch up on your lesson plans, work emails, or professional development. These days off never let you get ahead; it's just to catch up.

The month of October arrives and seems to last no less than eighty days. From there, it's three more weeks until the glorious Thanksgiving Break where you have a slightly longer time to recharge and reboot for the mad dash of December. Finally, today arrives and the bell rings to signify the end of school. What educators truly need is a week in Hawaii on the beach, quietly reading their favorite novel as they sometimes doze off throughout the afternoon. Instead, this holiday vacation arrives with long distance traveling, stressful long lines to pick up the last minute holiday gift, and more time with one's in laws. At some point we realize that we only have a few days left to finish all of our holiday projects before returning to school in January to prepare for the six month sprint to the finish line.

Here's my advice for how to best survive and hopefully thrive over these next two weeks:

1) Unplug

Yes, you may be behind on your lesson plans or parent emails, but now is not the time. Use this break to completely separate yourself from all things school. Follow the advice you give your students: go play and enjoy the time.

2) Enjoy the family moments

Today, in our Leadership meeting, we asked one another what our favorite holiday tradition was. Almost every individual answer involved some silly family practice that brought a smile to the sharer's face. Realize that your family, whether your own or your in-laws, are positive conduits for different, non-school conversations. Share the silly stories from your classroom, but don't linger on the struggles.

3) Rest

And when you wake up, rest some more. Enjoy sleeping in. Trade morning responsibilities with your spouse, parents, significant other, friend, anyone; this is your time to catch up and recharge your batteries. Don't let it go to waste.

4) Read

I have no less than four novels for fun, five books for professional development, and dozens of graphic novels next to my bed waiting to be read. I plan on spending a few afternoons enjoying these books and allowing my mind to wander a bit. Wherever you travel to, bring those books you've promised yourself you'd read but just haven't yet. This is the time to start a new chapter.

5) Do what you enjoy

Whether you enjoy day trips to wine country, family time at your local shopping mall, or catching up with friends, these are the moments to do what you enjoy. It's okay to ignore your lesson planning to have lunch at your favorite bistro. If you have a long list of "to-do" items, consider selecting those chores which would bring a sense of accomplishment. Two weeks is a long time; savor the moments to do what makes you happy.

While these may be my five suggestions, it's important to point out that what works for me may not be what works for you. While some may want to survive the next two weeks, hopefully many are instead looking to thrive during their vacation. The outlook can be different for everyone and that's ok. Figure out what you need to do to make the most of these upcoming moments and make it happen. The reason being, we're going to be back at school in sixteen short days and transitioning to the second half of the marathon we've put on pause. Gear up for the challenge but be sure to reboot during these pit stops we call the holidays.

After all, if you're an educator, you deserve the break. Happy holidays. See you in 2014.

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