Doesn’t the name just remind you of college and freedom and fun? I gotta say, it’s one of my favorite times of year. The weather is warm, there’s possibility in the air and summer is just around the corner. It doesn’t matter if it’s an extended weekend or a whole week (which is what I’m fortunate to have) – spring break is by far a respite that most educators cherish.
I just enjoyed my spring break last week and this got me thinking – breaks and vacations are so important to success. Whether it be spring break or the 30 minute lunch break in the middle of the day – we all need a bit of a breather to stay on top of our game (not to mention sane). I know of so many educators that work through lunch, don’t take their allotted break times, sometimes teach and work all through the summer. This isn’t healthy and it doesn’t make you a better teacher! In fact, it will have the opposite effect. Working at this pace will cause you to be burned out and frustrated – the exact teacher you wanted to avoid when you first started in this profession.
I know this because I went through this journey myself. I worked and worked and worked at teaching and coaching and lessons and grad school and internships. I volunteered for anything and everything to beef up my resume. Then I worked on getting married and have a child.
And along the way, somewhere, I discovered that I didn’t like teaching anymore and I just wanted to quit.
Well sure….I think anyone would want to quit if they worked at that pace without a break. That’s why we need it so badly.
Now, I this isn’t easy. I’m a workaholic by nature – I am the first one to admit that I have no idea how to relax. Sitting on a beach drinking mai-tai’s sounds great, but in reality I would be looking around after 5 minutes thinking that I needed to be doing something. Oh, let’s be honest – 2 minutes. Most educators I know have the strongest work ethic around. So to let go and relax isn’t really in their vocabulary. There’s always something that needs to be done, something that could be better, or learning the latest trends. And let’s not forget the financial piece: some of my colleagues really need the extra income that summer teaching and tutoring have to offer. Because despite what is in the news, teachers aren’t rich.
But you need a chance to recoup. To breathe. To reflect and relax and regroup.
This does a couple of things that will make you into a tremendous teacher:
1.) It allows you to assess what you’re doing and why. You can see more clearly and learn from your own teaching. The best practitioners I have ever met have been those people that know more about their flaws and how to fix them than anyone else could point out. This only comes with time and space to think through this.
2.) It gives you some perspective. Ever notice how things are WAY worse when you’re in the middle of the mud than when you’re out of it? Pull yourself out and away from the pit and you can see things from different angles.
3.) It gives your brain and body some space. This helps you become happier and healthier overall. And when you’re healthy, you can jump back into the fray with renewed strength. Think of it like Popeye eating his spinach and being better equipped to handle any issues.
ALL of these things allow us to be better teachers, colleagues, friends and personal advocates. Once I took some time for myself after my daughter was born to really reflect on things, I realized I didn’t want to quit. I just wanted balance. You can’t give if you are drained to empty. Take a day, an hour, a MINUTE to relax and recharge. Take a spring break in your mind just long enough that you can do some spring cleaning and center yourself. Your students, your relationships, and your spirit will thank you!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.