I started writing a post in another section and found that I had gotten on my soapbox, so I thought I would move the conversation over here. If you, like me, start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted this time of year, here are my best tips for making it through these last (if your school year runs like mine) six weeks.
1. Dress for your day. If you are going to be packing up your classroom or spending the day walking around during a test, wear comfortable clothes. I'm not saying you should wear your gym clothes to work, but be nice to yourself.
2. Be aware of how you are feeling and respond. You're about to have 2 months (kinda) to recover from the year, but that doesn't mean you should go into the summer completely spent. If you are feeling worn out, maybe think about giving yourself more recovery time. Maybe scale back your social calendar (just until you feel rested). Maybe don't plan to redecorate your whole house during the last 2 weeks of school. Maybe encourage friends to come visit during the summer instead of over Memorial Day weekend. I'm not saying you have to do this, but give yourself a break. It's been a long year; you've spent so much of your energy caring for others; know your body and what you need to be able to finish the year well. You don't want to be hobbling to the end of the year unable to really finish the year well because you didn't give yourself the space and time you needed.
3. Have some easy outfit options that you can throw on when you don't have the energy to put together a cute look you got from Pinterest. A few cute summer dresses and some casual sandals will make those last few Mondays so much better.
4. Start making your list of things you'd like to work on over the summer. It's easy to see all of the things that didn't turn out how you hoped or things you didn't get to, but instead of judging yourself for not being "Super Teacher", think about what you really want to change for next year. Are there lessons you'd like to develop, ways you'd like to arrange your room, or books you think you want to add to your reading list? Make your list and then think about when in the summer you want to tackle those projects. Maybe you are going to spend one day each week doing school stuff. Maybe you're going to not touch anything school related for the first month. You decide. But having a plan always keeps me from being too hard on myself at this point in the year.
The cold weather we've been having the past few days has finally paid off. I woke up this morning to a two-hour delay that then turned into a snow day! How exciting!
I'm a big believer in living in, what I like to call, the snow-day-strip. If you live too far north, you'll never get a snow day because they know what to do when it snows, and if you live too far south, you'll never get a snow day because it doesn't snow. So, if you want to partake in these glorious things we call snow days, you have to live (like a teacher version of Goldilocks) in the middle of the country.
Having lived in the snow-day-strip for all of my teaching career, I have a few different versions of my snow day self.
1. The Pride and Prejudice version--I sometimes take the day to watch the entire BBC series since I usually don't have such a block of time. I never regret this decision.
2. The super-productive version--I sometimes take the day and set up my dining room table as a work station. Since I wasn't planning on the day being productive, I get a thrill out of the bonus time to do work.
3. The housewife version--I sometimes use the snow day to get caught up on lots of chores I've been putting off--cleaning, organizing a closet, etc. Once again--since it's bonus time, I can use it for whatever!
4. The Cindy Lou Who version--I sometimes take the day to stroll around and enjoy the winter wonderland. I'll walk down to the local restaurant and enjoy lunch or take a walk with some neighbors and their dog. This normally happens on less bitterly cold days.
Whichever way you decide to spend your next snow day, I hope it's a lovely day and leaves you ready to tackle the next day.
I originally wrote this on my old blog (www.mstaylorgoestowashington.blogspot.com) when I was going to be out for a day to go home for my mom's birthday. I thought I would repost it here to get the teacher discussions started.
I have lots of thoughts about being out, substitutes, and telling your students you're going to be out. I thought since I didn't really have many outfits worth talking about, I'd give some thoughts on being gone.
When I was a new teacher, I was convinced that the world would fall apart if I was gone. And, I'll be honest, those first few years were pretty rough, and being gone was often more trouble than it was worth. It stunk to know I was going to come back and have to punish my students for being terrible while I was gone. But I also had a bit of a self-importance problem.
As I've gotten older and more settled in my classroom, it's become easier, most of the time, to be gone. And I've also become aware that my students can indeed survive without me for a day or two.
And I've also become more and more fearful of becoming Mr. Holland from Mr. Holland's Opus.
Just today in the work room we were discussing what a terrible message that movie sends. Here's a guy who neglects his family and his own dreams to be a teacher and we're led to believe that it's okay that he gave up these MAJOR things because he helped his students. Don't get me wrong--I love my students and I love my job, but I don't believe teachers should be expected to give up their own families and dreams in order to teach.
So--I've gotten better about taking a personal day here and there to go home for my mom's birthday or for a friend's Friday night wedding. I just realized that I wanted to be a good teacher AND a caring daughter and friend. And as teachers, it's easy to think you are doing the noble thing by never being gone, but let that pressure go. As long as you leave good sub plans and make sure the class period isn't wasted, it's okay to leave the children for a day in order to take care of yourself or others in your life.
There is also the question about telling the kids. I would say that you have to decide what will work for you. I am super lucky and have really, really sweet kids this year, so I told them I was going to be out because I wanted to give them a heads up about what they would be doing. And while I keep much of my personal life to myself, I did tell them that it was my mom's birthday. They were adorable and kept telling me to have a good time and to tell my mom they said, "Happy Birthday!" For me, these little things are ways I can share my life with my students without oversharing. It builds a bit of community. I think you have to know your students though. There have been years when I kept my distance and really just stuck to the subject. I still took an interest in their lives and cared deeply about them, but I didn't share much of my life because any deviation from the lesson threw them off and made it hard for them to focus.
So, to wrap up, here are my best sub tips:
1. Get to know the subs in your building and have a list of your favorites so you can request someone you feel comfortable leaving in charge of your class.
2. Leave a detailed note for the sub with a period-by-period break down of what each class will be doing.
3. Post-it note all of the copies. Label which class the copies are for and whether the students need to hand them in or keep them.
4. Write a note for the students that tells them step-by-step what they need to do and what they can do if they finish early. I've found this to be a lifesaver because you never really know how well the substitute will explain your instructions to your students. (Sometimes you have class lingo that the students understand but doesn't really translate to someone who has never met you...). If the substitute passes out your letter, then you can hold the students accountable for the work even if the substitute was confused.
5. Be free! Remind yourself that your students will be fine without you for a day. I hate to say it, but they might be excited about having a day to just put in their headphones and do their work.
Okay--I'm off to go find a snack before my late night flight on a tiny plane.