I remember my first winter break as a teacher. This was before I turned 30. I worked almost every day. I was searching for ideas, coming up with creative lessons, and I even graded some papers. It was one of my busiest break times ever. I was productive and accomplished a lot. Was I a more effective as a teacher after the break? I would argue no. My main goal was to be ready for students when they returned, but that is not the primary goal for a teacher on winter break. I did not rest, and continued to teach just as tired as I was before. Exhaustion makes you worse at your job. It is easy for us as teachers to want to keep working. The profession demands that we should be busy to meet the needs of our students. I say that to move forward we must step away.
Choose to make winter break a time to rest and recharged, ready for the second part of the year.
One of the reasons why I tend to get the winter break blues is I love to work. I get a thrill knowing that I have had an accomplished day. For me, hard work gives me value. It is one of the reasons why I went into teacher. My previous career was in banking, and a co-worker at my last bank me that I was struggling because I was bored and could do better. Most days I enjoy laying down at night tired. I must be careful and combat this because I will sit down and work the entire break. This is not good for myself or my family. They deserve time with me during winter break.
To beat the winter break blues, I first separate myself from work. To do that I need to cut it off. A good first step is to make sure you know what you are going to when you return. I am fortunate this year because my district has a work day planned before students return. I have an outline of what I want to do, and an idea of what they will be doing when they return. I still need to lesson plans and make copies, but I have the myself set up to have a productive work day. It’s tough to do this because we’re tired. I know that I mentally start shutting down about two days before break begins. I remember before Thanksgiving break, my brain starting shutting down the Sunday before the two school days before. It is important to have plan, so you do not have to make one before while you are on break. The second is cut work off. It starts with letting your parents know in advance that you will be unreachable. I let my parents know when I will be out, and when I will return. I put an automatic reply on my email, and I delete the app from my phone. I have the temptation to read it if I get a notification. I even shut down my social media app. I currently use Classdojo, and I just simply delete the app. I also cut off my teacher phone number. I have been using Google Voice since I started teaching. It saves all your call logs, voice mails and text messages for years. Even if you get a new phone or switch carriers it stays with you. The goal is make sure that we do not allow ourselves to be sucked back into work when we have no business thinking about work.
Another way to be the blues is to make sure you have something planned. Fill winter break with fun activities for yourself or with your family and friends. We usually do not travel on winter break because my children are younger, and prefer to play with their toys all day. We did have several days planned with fun events. We went to the movies during the middle of the week, I kept them up late for New Years, and we volunteered at church before Christmas. I also had days where I chilled out with my iPad watching reruns of The Office on Netflix. You don’t need a schedule for every day, but make sure that you occupy yourself with something other than work. Is it okay to do work stuff during break? It depends. I enjoy looking at Pinterest or other blogs for ideas to apply to the classroom. While I enjoy looking for lesson ideas; I’m not a huge fan of lesson planning. I do not enjoy grading papers, and I avoid that kind of work. It’s okay to occasionally look at work things that you enjoy. We need to be honest, we would not be in this occupation if we did not enjoy it (if you find no joy in teaching, you need to make a change).
You must know when to step away from work. It is important with any profession, and we must make sure to allow ourselves time to rest. Sometimes winter break doesn’t come soon enough, and mental health days are okay. Make a doctor’s appointment or go to a workshop. Your students can live without you for one day. In fact, they sometimes appreciate you even more when you are away. We must step away, or we might end up stepping out. Many teachers don’t make it past their fifth year, and to keep the passion we to take break from it. Choose to make winter break a time to rest and recharged, ready for the second part of the year.