I always go into breaks from school planning to be really productive, but not getting a lot done. I usually spend two days catching up on sleep, television, and cleaning before realizing I’ve accomplished nothing and binge working the day before the kids come back to get the necessities finished. With Thanksgiving break over and Christmas break upon us, I felt some reflection on how I keep myself on track would do me some good.
I started break by taking a full day off to relax. It was Thanksgiving, after all, so I made sure I enjoyed my time with family and friends. As teachers, we are constantly spending our energy helping and taking care of others; breaks give us the chance to refill our fuel tanks. I spent that day avoiding my email and did not even bother to take anything out of my school bag. Instead, I caught up on Netflix and tried to avoid feeling guilty for taking time out for myself. Everyone has different ways of taking care of themselves. My personal favorite ways to decompress are reading under a big fluffy blanket, yoga, or cooking.
This break, I tried to set goals and be realistic with what I wanted to accomplish. I am a workaholic normally, so I always see breaks as that large chunk of time I’m so desperate for during the regular school week. My eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to say, and I plan on doing everything over break: grade, do some lesson planning, redo an entire year’s curriculum- I go big in my endeavors, and I fail every single time. So this break, I wrote my to-do list down, kept it manageable, and set my top few priorities. When I finished a task, I crossed it off my list and did a little victory dance. I didn’t get everything done, but I got more done than I usually do.
Finally, I broke up each task and worked at times I would be most productive. I set aside time mostly in the afternoon because that is when I am awake and ready to go; there was no use trying to wake myself up early to work because I am not a morning person and never will be. I also used a timer to chunk my grading up: 25 minutes working then a 10-minute break. Since I didn’t have time to get on Facebook or do any Black Friday shopping to procrastinate, I had to work. 25 minutes is an amount of time I can comfortably focus for, but you can adjust it longer or shorter for your attention span.
I am jealous of the teachers who can tune school out for 5 days and relax, but it is really difficult for me to turn off my brain. Even in the summer, I barely make it a week without diving back into planning for the next school year. At the very least, I spend my breaks making sure to take care of myself, relax, and still get a little work done.