Gimme’ A Break
We have cruised through March and now we can finally see the finish line. Although there is much left to do with my students, we have gained a small sense of closure through finally placing winter firmly in the rear-view mirror. And this weeklong break could not have come at a better time. Regardless of whether you are going on a vacation or having a “stay cation,” getting away from school allows for the opportunity to decompress and gives teachers the time to refocus for the final leg. That is why teachers need spring break too.
Breaks are something that all teachers need. At the beginning of this week, I felt as though it would be wasted – the days were flying by and I felt as though I was not really enjoying my time off. For one, I wasn’t sitting on a beach enjoying the hot sun of some tropical island. I was subconsciously trying to enjoy my time off. I felt that I was not “enjoying” my break because it seemed as though every second I spent thinking about coming back to work. As I look back now, at wick’s end of my break, I realize that it was well needed and well spent time off. Even time spent doing nothing is valuable time and recovery.
In my early twenties, training for football was one of the most physically demanding periods of my life. My trainer put me through an intense three-month program that I would not have completed if I had a full time job or if I was not able to see a physical therapist on a weekly basis! It was two workouts a day for six days a week, intense stretching every evening before bed, and abdominal exercises as soon as I woke up every morning. Those three months taught me many crucial things about preparation, perseverance, and consistency. But perhaps the most relevant experience I learned from this time was knowing when to “switch off.” As we would finish a workout, my trainer would always say, “Done. Now it’s time to switch off!” Meaning, the workout was over and it was time to think about other things, time to shift your focus.
This idea of “switching off” is so crucial in teaching as well. When a school day is over with, it is important that you switch your “inner teacher” off. Faculties of education will teach you to “park your bias in the car with you before you enter the school”. Well, a teacher should also leave their day at work with them and practice “switching off” as they leave the building, or at least as a process throughout the ride home from work.
For self-care, it is important that we unplug from the daily stresses of our job. Teaching is mentally exhausting. The ability to be self-reflexive as an education is of upmost importance. Postulating about teaching, whether it’s on the job you did delivering a lesson or that conversation you had with a student, these are all things that are unavoidable to growing teachers. But they are all things that should only be practiced to a limit. “Always being on” and thinking about the job will leave you exponentially more tired and mentally bleary than if you simply “switched off” after leaving the school. As new teachers, we are always thinking and looking for ways to get better. But if you never “mentally” leave the classroom, there will be little to no route to your emotional improvement as a teacher. As circular as that seems, it is true. A constant inability to separate from the job is detrimental to one’s psychological and emotional improvement. “Unplugging” or switching off will keep you mentally healthy and leave you with the ability to enter the school each day fresh and ready to take on another set of challenges.
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