Spring break is the chance for teachers everywhere to exhale, but I know most teachers are like me and spend their week off finding a balance between relaxing and catching up. I usually spend the first days of any break relaxing, binging TV shows, and sleeping in before I spend the rest of it grading and planning for when school starts again. Should I be working during my week off? No, but I do it anyway. No guilt here— it’s a chance for us to get ahead or dig ourselves out of that pile of late work we’ve been ignoring in a profession where we have little free time and too much to do.
But not this break. This break I reversed my usual course. I spent 6 full days ignoring anything school related; I didn’t answer emails, grade papers (despite my pile), or open up my lesson plans. And it was amazing.
After a year of COVID, I finally got to go home to meet my new baby niece and see my family. It was exactly what I needed to reset. I got to hug people again and play with baby toys and try ever so hard to get an 8 month old to say something close to Rachel (I got raaaaah once, and I’ll take it). I tried to be present for every moment and reconnect with people I have missed a lot.
People always say they come back from breaks feel refreshed and reinvigorated, and I usually make it three days before I feel bored. So, for the first time ever, I finally enjoyed that time off and came back recharged. I didn’t realize it though, until I walked back into the building this week and was stressed again.
It feels embarrassing to admit how stressful my job is this year because I love teaching, so it was hard to write those words. Teaching during COIVD isn’t as fun as it used to be, and the stress of this year isn’t healthy. The comparison of my stress-free week to how I’ve felt having student back in the building these past three days has made me realize that I need more breaks, and I need to not feel guilty about taking them. Teachers can’t burn the candle at both ends and expect to not get burnt out. And I know this year is different and that things will eventually return to normal, but I also know I can’t work myself to death and be happy at the same time.
My commitment then is to take some of the leave I never use and enjoy some mental health days this spring. I’m not planning anything crazy; letting myself sleep in and taking a hike on a nice day would probably be enough to refresh my stress levels. If you’ve read this far and still need permission or a reminder, take the day if you need it. We’ll all be better teachers if we do.
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