Winter Break for teachers is a special time of hibernation! I learned early on in my career that I could absolutely spend all my time in bed binging on Netflix, and come the first Monday back have nothing prepped and be deeply regretful about the way I'd spent my time.
So, let me outline some strategies for using your Winter Break so that you have a balance of You Time, Family Time, and Work Time!
According to Inc.com, citing a Finnish university study on vacationers, eight days is the perfect length of time for a vacation in order to decompress from the stresses of work. I highly recommend taking two to three of those days for only you. Whether that means burying yourself in bed with a good book or a good show, taking a hike, spending time with your dog, or any other activity that helps you decompress, spend those days wisely!
Most importantly, be brave enough to say no. I often find it is more difficult to protect my Me Time during break because there are many loved ones and errands vying for my time. Politely, but firmly, decline. Use the words "I would love to, but I am taking a few days to myself. How about next week we ___?" Offer an alternative so the person knows you still want to spend time with them, just not right now.
I guarantee after your two to three days of "hibernation" you will feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your break! This time doesn't have to happen right when break starts, in fact it might be better to do it after the holidays, but definitely make sure it happens, and make sure the days are consecutive!
Family / Friend Time
Family time can be stressful, especially if you are hosting holiday celebrations or need to do any traveling. Again, the theme stays the same, decline when needed and offer an alternative that can satisfy both parties. If that isn't possible, try and fit in some decompression time.
Family time also means spending meaningful time with family that you might not normally have time for. This would apply to outside of holiday obligations, and more toward activities or events that you might normally put off during school days, but now you suddenly have time for. Haven't seen your bestie in several weeks? Call them up and set a coffee date! Missing date nights with your significant other? Plan a special night for just the two of you.
I would also recommend enlisting the help of others so everything doesn't fall on your shoulders. If you normally clean, shop, prep, and cook then reach out and ask for help. If anyone seems put off by your sudden need, just explain that you are taking time for yourself as a busy educator, and you would like some help!
Most of all, enjoy this precious gift of time with loved ones!
I left this one last because I know none of us are in the right mindset to think about work when break is upon us and we are all so incredibly exhausted. However, imagine the alternative: You spent your wonderful two weeks off hibernating and celebrating with family, and oh no school starts tomorrow and you aren't prepped for the week!
I want to help you avoid that and you only need to 'donate' one day of your break. Yep, just one day, that's it. Just prep for what you need the week you come back, and then you're done. Needed things might include:
If you feel it will take more than one day to prep those items, I would say print off master copies at the very least so you can get to work early come Monday and print the rest. Best case scenario your spend one day getting prepped for the bare minimum for the whole week, that way you can spend your prep that first week back getting acclimated and prepping for the week after. Worst case scenario you spend your one day only getting prepped for Monday, and using your prep to finish planning for the week.
Whichever way you slice it, be sure to spend a least a little time prepping. Make it fun by rewarding yourself with a treat, or double up on family/friend time by bringing someone along to help you, and going to lunch after.
But, whatever you do, do not spend all your time at work!!!
I hope you found this post helpful, and that your Winter Break is restful and relaxing! I will be taking the rest of the month off, and will be back with a new post mid-January!
Have a Happy Holiday and a Wonderful New Year!
This time of year can either drag by minute by minute (does the clock really say 8:05am?!) or it can speed past in a flurry of engaged activities that pretty soon its Winter Break and you wonder where the year went. Personally I prefer the latter experience to the former!
As a person who needs constant change and stimulation, my personal motto for the classroom has always been that if I am bored so are my students. If I am watching the clock and dragging myself out of bed every morning hating every minute, then, so are my students!
I always relish this time of year and May because it is a chance to take a small break from curriculum (I am the kind of teacher that skip holidays and stays on calendar, I know, I'm THAT teacher!) and do something engaging and fun!
A small side note, all of these activities are holiday neutral, so you shouldn't run into any issues of being insensitive to any particular group of students. This list was brainstormed a few years ago by my leadership team! Enjoy! If you do use these please tag me on Instagram @theteachinglifestyle and #theteachinglifestyle
I have one last post scheduled for next Saturday about different ways to schedule your Winter Break so that you get a balance of family time, YOU time, and a little work time! After that I won't be posting again until January 2019, about speaking to parents, since I am sure you Progress Reports will be coming up just like mine!
Burn out can happen to anyone. Let's get that out of the way right now! Yes, even "that teacher" who looks like she has it all together, even the teacher who's been working at your school for 20 years, even the cheerful teacher who seems like he never has a bad day. They have all experienced being burned out.
The problem is that most of us (even me!) don't realize we are burned out until we are already burned to a crisp. So, before I go over some strategies on dealing with burn out as an educator, I want to outline the symptoms of burn out. *I will be discussing some physical and mental symptoms, and I am not a doctor nor am I giving medical advice. Please see you regular care physician as part of your self-care strategy!*
Symptoms of Burn Out
If you have any combination of the following symptoms, you are probably experiencing burn out.
Burn Out Strategies
Consider joining the 40 Hour Teacher Work Week from Angela Watson. Burn out can happen when we use our time ineffectively, but aren't sure what is or isn't effective, this club is for you. New cohort starts January, with early bird access December 10th!
Western Governors University: The Signs of Teacher Burnout and How to Prevent it by Fiona Tapp
Learners Edge: Warning Signs of Teacher Burnout
Education Week Teacher: Six Signs of-and Solutions for-Teacher Burn Out by Wendi Pillars
The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration, but for many students it can be a time of awkwardness and exclusion. Imagine being a student who isn't Christian and doesn't celebrate Christmas having an Elf on the Shelf in their classroom. Imagine being a student who isn't allowed to participate in holiday activities coming in and seeing Christmas decor and having to skirt around holiday activities for the next month.
I am choosing to write about this now for two reasons: I am seeing a lot of Elf on the Shelf, Christmas trees, and Santa's popping up on my Instagram feed from classrooms all over the US; and that I am not a Christian and I do not celebrate any holidays during this time of year. I become acutely aware of how our students may be feeling during this time of year, because I felt the same way when I was a child and did not have the mature language skills I needed to express my feelings to my teacher. I always felt that "This is the way it is, and it isn't changing."
Last year I had a student who was a practicing Jehovah's Witness. During Meet the Teacher Night her mother was very concerned about holidays, but seemed apologetic when speaking to me about her concerns. I told her not to worry, that I rarely celebrated any holidays in my classroom, and I would run any planned activities by her. In October, we celebrated Fall. When Halloween rolled around we continued with lessons as usual. During November I taught my normal historically accurate history with articles from Newsela. During December we worked on Compliment Presents and Joy Books, both from The Thinker Builder blog. Our party was also a "Hard Work Celebration" rather than a Christmas party. In February we celebrated love rather than Saint Valentine, and I gave out non-Valentine activities. At the end of the year my student and her mother thanked me for being inclusive. My student told me every year during Halloween, December, and Valentine's Day she had to leave her other classrooms because her past teachers hadn't been inclusive.
I understand that if you are Christian being disappointed or even angry about the thought of not being able to share the joy of the season with your students, but that is NOT what I am suggesting at all! Let's discuss some alternatives to celebrating the season with your students in a way that is inclusive and fun for all!
Thank you for opening your minds and hearts to our students, and working towards being the best educators we can!
I'm Mae and I am an instructional Coach, 5th Grade ELA teacher, and Thinking Maps trained.