Three years ago, I wrote a post titled “3 Reminders for the End of the School Year.” Here are the reminders I shared in that original post and some thoughts that I wanted to share after.
1. Not all students look forward to the summer break.
Although many students celebrate summer vacation, some miss the routine of school and the relationships that school provides that they may not receive to the same extent elsewhere. That time away from the routine can be daunting so try to check in with students to give them some extra attention before they get into the break. This leads to the next suggestion.
2. Find time to connect personally with each student you teach.
For many schools, the end of the year means “awards season” (I have some strong thoughts about that), and although some students feel they get some special recognition, for many, this time leaves them dispirited. Little conversations with students to let them know they are appreciated can make a huge difference. I still remember in grade 4, as a student, our teacher Miss Butler, wrote a personal note to every single student in her class that I can still remember to this day. I had won some awards as a student, but I have cherished nothing more than I did that genuine show of appreciation. That was the only time I had received something like that as a student, but it shouldn’t be an anomaly. Writing cards for every student, which would be especially hard in high school, is not necessarily the only way this can be done, so take the time to show that appreciation. Some may see this as a waste of time, but I see it as an investment in your students. You might not see the payoff, but believe me, it will happen.
3. It is okay for you to take a break.
I always see tweets on Facebook posts getting on educators for looking forward to summer break. Things like, “don’t look it as 20 days until the break, but 20 days to make a difference,” are fantastic in spirit, but they already add to the pile of teacher guilt that so many have. I don’t see any professional guilt people for having a break more than I do in education. People always need doctors, but rarely do I see Facebook posts guilting them about holidays. Maybe we can see it as 20 days to make a difference AND until you have a break. Education is taxing emotionally, mentally, and even physically. If you do not practice self-care, eventually, there will be nothing left for you or your students in the future. Spend time with family, do fun things, or whatever. Just be okay with recharging batteries. I promise you that the students will need you at the beginning of next school year at 100%.
With point one, I still agree. The stress of this year has been really overwhelming, and I know that the connections many have with caring adults in their classrooms, either face-to-face, virtual, or a mix of something in between, matters to so many students.
But it also matters to many adults. For many adults, even through the stress of work, the school might be their happy place as well. You can both look forward to a break and miss school at the same time. Check in on kids but don’t forget to check in on your colleagues as well. Change, even when positive, can be stressful for all ages.
Point two is more important than ever. I have heard many people say that this school year will be one that everyone will remember, whether good or bad. But what often resonates most at the end of a school year or even end of a career with a school district is not the 90% time in the beginning, but that last ten percent of the year. Think of this using a sports analogy; how often do you remember the beginning of a game versus the ending? Making personal connections to ensure people (both adults and students) feel valued is essential as they transition into a new phase. The most memorable conversations I had with my teachers as a kid were often where I just knew I was cared about as a person, not only how well I did in school. But those personal conversations often led me to want to do better in school because they mattered so much.
On the final point regarding being fine with taking breaks, I want to address something in myself. I know that there can be imposed guilt from outside sources on school breaks, but I struggle with the guilt I impose on myself. For years, I have struggled with (and still struggle with) the idea that if I am not using my time to get better, it is time wasted. What I have learned and trying to get better at is understanding and embracing that rest is an essential part of the growth process.
Here is a simple analogy.
If you are weightlifting, you are ultimately tearing muscles, and they rebuild stronger. But they only rebuild when they are rested.
“If a workout causes too many micro-tears, then the body will fail to fully repair the muscles, and muscle growth will be stunted.
If a workout causes optimal micro-tearing but the body isn’t supplied with sufficient nutrition or rest, no appreciable amount of muscle growth will occur.“
Everyone has learned a lot in the last year, but if we (myself included) do not find that time to rest and rebuild, we only come back more worn out than when we started.
Through rest, we not only recuperate, but we grow stronger.
As I prepare to take my own break, I wanted to write this for myself more than anyone else. I hope for anyone reading this, sharing my own thoughts might help you on your journey.
Here is an added article from Psychology Today titled, “How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers” that might be beneficial!