Today is my student’s last day of school, and what a year it was. It started a cyber- attack, ended with a pandemic, and exhausted me to no end. It is the end of my 8th year of teaching, and I have never been more tired than I am today.
Unfortunately some of that exhaustion comes from the anxiety of not knowing what our future holds. My brain constantly runs through the scenarios and questions of what next year will look like when school starts back in the fall. Will we be in school? Online? A hybrid? If we are online, will I be able to get more than 20 of my students to participate? If we are in school, what does my classroom look like with social distancing in place? And my biggest one, how the heck can I teach all day in a mask?
So, all day my brain runs through the options and I inevitably fall on the last question I have to ask myself. Should I start planning instruction for online scenarios? And I have wrestled with that question a lot in the past week. On one hand, I don’t want to plan all summer and then end up going back in the classroom and have wasted my time. On the other hand, I don’t want to be thrown into online learning again feeling as unprepared as I did nine weeks ago. And, I know teachers in the state and across the country are asking themselves the same questions and coming up with their own answers.
The good teacher in me wants to be prepared for whatever the fall brings my way. The good teacher in me wants to have engaging digital lessons set up and ready to go so my students know I am there for them, even if it is from behind a computer screen. The exhausted teacher in me wants to turn off my computer until July and never check my email again. The exhausted teacher is winning the battle today, on the last day of school, where all I wanted to do was see my students and say goodbye on their way out the door to summer vacation.
I know teacher burnout is real, and so the middle ground is to take a break. Let my mind rest and relax after the stress of being thrown into online learning and re-imaging what the end of this semester would look like. I need to remind myself that there is not use planning until the haziness around next year fades and the powers that be give us a clearer picture of what school is going to look like.
To all the teachers like me feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the future, it is okay to take your foot off the gas and take a break. Give yourself permission to not think about school for a bit and relax into the beginning of summer. I will say this for anyone that needs to hear it (which includes myself): you will still be a good teacher even if you take a break, even if you unplug your computer for a week, even if you ignores those emails until tomorrow. Happy summer!