Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Assignment: 6 things to do this break to prevent burn-out




What's your restoration plan? I mean, despite the holidays and travel and grading and planning and presents and stress, how do you plan to be ready to return in January to school rested and restored and ready-to-rock?

Well, I have an assignment for you. I gave a similar one to my students, with only slightly different rationales.

1) Go for a walk. Outside.
The weather may be cold and wet, but exercise, fresh air, and natural light are good for you, preventing brooding. If you're like me, and work in the Northern Hemisphere, there's a good chance that you've been going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark only to balance grading, family, and holiday preparation. Your mental health and circadian rhythm will thank you for taking a walk outside in a natural setting. I've got such a kick out of walking in the morning this week -- in daylight nonetheless!

2) Express gratitude.
Sure, if you express gratitude to others, their day will be better, holiday spirit, yada yada. But expressing your gratitude by writing a heartfelt card, or calling  someone to let them know why you appreciate them, will help you be more positive and happier. Positive and happy teachers are good for students.

3) Read a book.
And not just one for school. You need to read books of your choosing for pleasure, just as your students do. Regular reading for pleasure improves vocabulary, life satisfaction, and empathy. It's hard to focus on our intellectual growth on days you're facing a class of 30, but it's worth it when you can fit it in to keep learning and growing. Yes, I also want you to talk and model that growth to your students in January. We have a chance to model adults who read for enjoyment and show that we expect to keep growing in reading, writing, life.

4) Make plans.
And not just lesson plans! Yes, you'll get caught up on planning and grading -- so you can start fresh -- but also plan activities for spring to anticipate and look forward to stay a balanced, sane professional by planning times this spring that you won't teach. You'll be a better teacher for doing other things. As Dave Burgess of Teach Like a Pirate advocates, we have to cultivate outside enthusiasms in order to bring our best selves to our classroom.

5) Sleep.
Getting enough sleep reduces stress and improves immune function. You were probably sleep-deprived before break. Take care of that.

6) Do the things that fill you up. 
Everyone's list will be different. Mine includes time with my children and nieces and nephews, writing, painting, hiking, and reading. But come January, it behooves you to know and do your own list now. Finding meaning in your life is twice as likely to lead to life satisfaction than material wealth. We teach because mentoring kids, helping them grow, choosing a purposeful life inspires us more than a big paycheck. We will be better at it, if we also nurture our other purposes during this winter break.