Classrooms in Crisis: Rest and Recovery
It is time. Finally. After 15 weeks of online teaching, and 2 months of face to face teaching under COVID teaching restrictions it is time. Summer Break.
My Facebook feed is already sharing images of past summer breaks. Times at the lake with friends. Barbecues with family. Celebrations. Get togethers. Simple gatherings with friends. All restful and enjoyable events from years past. Today is the first day of my official summer break. I am shattered.
Typically, I run on fumes during the last part of the school year. Even during the best planned times, I am exhausted with the end of year activities, events, and responsibilities that need to be accomplished. This year, I am spent, shattered, done. Teaching online. Then teaching face to face under the stress of a recurrence of COVID-19. Then trying to finish the school year strong has pushed me hard to the end. I am spent. Now, it is time to rest and recover.
If you are an educator, you understand this. We all go through our own versions of exhaustion at the end of the school year. This year is definitely a unique year for any educators with the addition of online schooling and instruction. The stress of what might come in the fall is equally weighing on our minds. We all need time to shut down, rest, and recover.
This summer, I have a list of things that I need and want to do. They are all personal growth areas rather than educational planning. There are skills I am trying to develop and key tasks that will benefit me in the long run. Yes, I do have schoolwork that I need to prepare for the coming school year, but it is secondary to personal growth. I need to take care of myself first.
As an educator, I am staring down the track at a school system that is nothing like I was trained or prepared for. I was never taught about teaching online. Frankly, when I attended university, this was not a reality for most schools. Teaching a hybrid model of a two days face to face then three days online is also something that was never a discussion. We had hypothetical talks about various classroom models, but this was never a topic because technology had not advanced to the point it is now. These are all realities that we, as educators, are now confronted with.
The following is my plan for the summer. As I recover from my experience with online, hybrid, and face to face teaching, I am focusing on recovery and self-care. There will be some work for school as I prepare to teach in an uncertain new world in the fall.
Rest. It has been a long year. I am always exhausted at the end of the year. This year is no exception other than this has been more of a mental strain than previous years. The human body need rest. We can operate in a sleep deprived state, but we do not function as well as we could if we were well rested. Our bodies need rest to recover from physical activity. We recover to allow healing and to restore our energy reserves. We need to do the same thing for our mental state. We need to shut off our brain and allow ourselves to come down from the stress of the year. Both physical and mental rest are important for us to return to our best state before returning to school in the fall. How can you rest and relax during this summer to restore your body and soul?
Exercise. I have been terrible at this during the school year. I need to return to a regime of exercise to restore my physical health. Our ability to resist stress and perform at a higher level is determined by our physical health. The human body is designed to move and be active. When we are active, regularly, we can resist stress, increase our resistance to disease, and we are prepared to respond to the challenges that come at us. Personally, I feel the importance of this when I am not regularly active. This summer, this is a goal for me to improve my physical activity level. If you are not active, start simple with walking daily for an extended period. Consider how you can improve your physical activity levels during this time of rest.
Learn. I have many targeted goals for this summer. I have been engaged in webinars, meetings with educators, discussions with friends, and writing about my experiences and thoughts for moving forward. One of my goals this summer is to learn something new for myself, not for work. My immediate goal is to learn how to podcast. It is for personal and professional reasons, but it is purely for my own learning. I am also working on a website that I share with several friends and building that out. Finally, I just bought an electronic piano to begin to work on learning how to play another instrument while I continue to develop my guitar skills. These are all personal developments and areas of growth for me. They are intended to be for my own wellness. Consider what skill you might learn in the time off that brings you joy.
Prepare. I am preparing for next year. Yes, I am devoting an amount of time to getting my units in order and how I might teach in whatever environment. I find myself in the fall. But and this is important, I am limiting myself to a set amount of time when I do my schoolwork. If I do not do this, I will find myself running down the very dark rabbit hole very quickly and spend to much time with work. I do need to prepare for next year, but I need to limit what I do for my own self-care. Consider how you might plan your week so that you can allow time during the week to work on preparation. Then, stick to a short amount of time each day or week. Plan your work time and schedule it this week. Focus on your priorities.
Self-care. I am fortunate that I can go outside, visit the beach, mountains, rock climb, and even go to restaurants. I can see friends regularly. I am going to be doing all these things. I plan to get out to the beach and spend a few days just enjoying sand, sun, and water. I am going to hike in the mountains near my house. I am going to spend time rock climbing with friends and enjoying the are around me. I am going to do the things that are good for the soul. Find time to take care of just you and not the rest of the world during this break.
Re-Connect. As an international schoolteacher, people come and go regularly. Over the course of the last six months, it has been hard to connect with people other than just work related. My family has struggled as well with the online learning as their parents are also teachers. We have become disconnected. As we all recharge our batteries, we have been given the gift of time to connect again as a family. In overseas schools, your family is one of the constants that will not change. However, find time to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a pint with your friends. The simple act of just sitting with someone and talking about anything brings connection that you have been desiring. You have been given this gift of time, take full advantage of it.
I know that I will not be fully successful at the above areas during the break. For example, I already wrenched my knee being active so that slows me down. But, if I can do a little bit of each of these areas, I will enter the school rested, refreshed, and better connected than I do right now. I will be prepared to face the challenges of the new school year. I hope that you can find time to rest and recover during this summer break. You have earned it.