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!
I'm Mae and I am an instructional Coach, 5th Grade ELA teacher, and Thinking Maps trained.