It’s May here in San Diego, so most teachers I know are more than ready to dip their sore, flip-flopped feet into the refreshing waves of The Pacific. You know, in that glorious five minutes before summer school begins, professional development courses start up, classroom cleaning commences, lesson planning continues, and the second job most teachers have during their “free” summer demands their time and attention.
I love everything about my job as a classroom teacher, and have been doing it for the better part of three decades, but I confess that during this time of the year I can get tired, cranky, and impatient. And that’s not good for me or for the students.
So how should teachers cope with this very challenging part of the school year?
Here are five possibilities:
Make plans for no plans. You know that family calendar hanging on the fridge? The one that runs your life? One antidote to year-end stress is to look at your schedule and be intentional about scheduling white space. You don’t need to fill in every box. Give yourself permission to leave some boxes empty. The end of the school year can be jam-packed with obligations, responsibilities and other “have tos.” Treat that white space as another “have to.” When people ask you to do something when you have white space planned, simply say, “I’m sorry. Can we pick another day? I’ve got something else going on right then.” Of course what you have going on is a whole lot of nothing, but that can be our little secret.
Less is more. Learning to reduce and subtract is a key component of creating a more relaxed life. Schedule less, Do less, buy less, have less, and I guarantee that you will enjoy more! Repeat after me, “I don’t have to do all of the things.”
Find time for Self-Care. What is it that makes you feel soothed, pampered, and taken care of? Is it listening to music? Talking long walks? Luxuriating in long, hot bubble baths? Having dinner with the family? Spending time with your pets? (I strongly advise against doing all of these at the same time, however). Whatever it is, decide what form of self-care works best for you. Then spend more time there.
Embrace Silence and Stillness. Don’t forget about silence and stillness. Even if it’s five minutes on the side of the road after work before you re-enter the hyper-speed warp drive of family life or ten minutes of pleasure reading before bed, create intentional time for stillness and silence where there is no chaos, urgency, or White Noise. And when being still and silent, don’t forget about the joy and personal fulfillment of meditating, journaling, reflection, and/or prayer. It’s the “always going” that empties the tank and leaves us burnt out, while silence and stillness slows our rhythm and calms us down. Though counterintuitive in our 21stCentury world, daily silence, especially, can be an incredibly effective secret weapon in our self-care arsenals.
Focus On the “One Good Thing.” On those days that never seem to end or when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope, think back over the course of your day and, as one teacher I know recommends, focus on that “One Good Thing” that happened. It might be an interaction with a student, an adventure with your family, some quiet time for reading with a cup of tea or glass of wine, watching the sunset, or simply indulging in (and enjoying) some other special moment of self-care you’d been putting off for far too long–a mani-pedi, for example, a spa day, or completing that FULLER HOUSE scrapbook that’s just been sitting there collecting dust.
The (After-Spring Break-Testing Season-Dog-Days-of-Spring-April-May-June-Count Down to Graduation/Promotion) Home Stretch is often one of the toughest times of the school year.
In fact, I got winded just typing that.
As of this writing, for example, I have four weeks, three final exam half days, and a graduation ceremony.
But who’s counting? TZT