By Mary Stennes Wilbourn and Anastasia Scott
We asked Free Spirit authors to tell us how they use the holiday break to recharge and share relaxation tips for teachers. Below are their plans and advice for a rejuvenating winter break.
“When I have an extended amount of time to take a break from a hectic day-to-day schedule, the first thing I do is get off the Internet. No checking Facebook or news sites or otherwise browsing online. I sporadically check emails on my phone and only answer messages that require a timely response. I take my time reading the newspaper, rather than rushing through headlines and the first and last paragraphs of articles. I listen to my kids intently, without dividing my attention to multitask. And I enjoy my coffee while it’s still hot, with no visits to the microwave to warm it up!”
—Mariam G. MacGregor, M.S., author of Building Everyday Leadership in All Kids
“In addition to catching up on rest and play, I like to spend some time in meditation offering gratitude for all that’s happened in the previous year—especially the rough stuff. I know it’s what I do in the challenging times that helps shape me, and I’m thankful to know my heart can always get bigger.”
—Kelly Huegel, author of GLBTQ
“I always like to try something new during the break. I find it important to change up my routine of balancing family and school life during the rest of the school year.”—Susan M. Islascox, M.A., coauthor of The Survival Guide for School Success
“I give my students homework every weeknight, without fail. They do some kind of writing, reading, or both, no matter the season. With that said, I also assign NO homework on the weekends or on a holiday break. When I tell them the only thing I’d like them to do, as teenagers, is sleep till noon, text and Instagram until their thumbs are sore, and eat a whole sit-down dinner with their families, they literally cheer. I also tell them I will be doing much of the same thing (though for me that’s more like yard-sale shopping, coffee with friends, and movies), but limited grading. I believe in regular breaks. I believe in working diligently, playing often, and moderation. Balance and mindfulness make us all better, more willing learners both in and out of the classroom. And if any of them choose to take a break and read for pleasure, that’s just a bonus . . . and something we would also have in common.”
—Ann Camacho, editor of Bookmarked
“What I would like to do is sit in a comfy chair all weekend and knit a sweater for my new granddaughter, Lillian.”
—Nancy Carlson, author of Armond Goes to a Party
Some of our authors have great advice for teachers, reminders that we all need to shift gears and chill out sometimes, and tips for making the most of quiet time.
“Arrange to associate with persons outside the age range of your students as much as possible. An early childhood educator, for example, gets less of a break if surrounded by preschoolers.”
—John F. Taylor, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Kids with ADHD
“The best advice I can offer is to NOT take work home with you over the holidays. This is a time for you to spend with your family and friends. Also, don’t assign your students homework (outside of reading for 20 minutes each day) over the holidays. You don’t want to be evaluating all that homework after the holidays.”
—Richard M. Cash, Ed.D., coauthor of Differentiation for Gifted Learners
“Relaxation from the stress of teaching boosts your immune system while lowering your chance for strokes and heart problems. You catch fewer colds and have less depression. Relaxation even helps you stay slim. Unless, of course, you gorge on delicious chocolates and hot fudge sundaes.”
—Barbara A. Lewis, author of Building Character with True Stories from Nature
“For those of us who work with children all day long, taking care of ourselves during this time of the year should come naturally. As the holidays approach, just think like a child. Get outdoors and throw some snowballs or build a snowman. Look through all of those catalogs and mark off the gifts you want Santa to bring you. Snuggle into your bed early and watch your favorite holiday movie with a cup of hot chocolate. Laugh and giggle as you decorate holiday cookies with too much icing and too many sprinkles. Enjoy the season like those wonderful children you work with every day have taught you to do, and you will come back to work smiling and refreshed.”
—Elizabeth Reeve, M.D., coauthor of The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders
“We who work with kids need to always be on our game. That takes tremendous physical, mental, and emotional energy. Five ways to recharge your mind, body, and spirit during the holidays are to 1) spend time with people who lift your spirits, 2) get out in nature, 3) stay off social media, 4) do something you love, just for yourself, and 5) sleep well. Happy holidays and thank you for being an educator!”
—Annie Fox, M.Ed., author of the Middle School Confidential™ series
“If you keep your nose to the grindstone, all you get is a flat nose. When folks are on their deathbeds, very few of them say ‘Gee, I wish I’d spent more time working.’ To quote Jerome K. Jerome: ‘I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.’ To quote Dr. Seuss: ‘When he worked, he really worked. But when he played, he really PLAYED.’”
—Thomas McIntyre, Ph.D., author of The Survival Guide for Kids with Behavior Challenges
And one response shows that while relaxation is a good thing, sometimes we’re happy to get back to routine.
“A little distance makes the heart grow fonder. It’s true in romantic love, parental love, sibling love, and it’s true for the love educators have for their students. ‘Our kids’ have an emotional bond with their teachers. We call them ours because they matter to us. We are in the business of building people, and that requires an emotional connection to our job that feels different from other professions. We think about our students in the evenings and worry about them when we know they face hardship. Educators do not stop their work once the buses drive away, and that is why distance is so important to us.
“It is during breaks that we can have silence which brings an opportunity to reflect. We can consume a meal when we are hungry, and some educators have been known, during breaks, to eat sitting down, without watching a clock count down the three minutes until their presence is required somewhere. It is on breaks that we get to go to the bathroom whenever the urge strikes. And it is during breaks that teachers do not have to organize, engage, and enlighten large groups of children for hours at a time.
“A magical thing happens in those breaks. While we enjoy the quiet and the slower pace of life on a break, as we grocery shop in the daylight or mow our own lawns, it doesn’t take many days of living in that luxury to begin feeling sort of empty. Our job, by design, means that it matters that we are there. Those little people, even the teens taller than us are looking for us when they walk through the schoolhouse door. They want to show us new shoes and tell funny stories, or they simply want to hear someone call them by their name. Teaching is personal, and no one knows that as much as the student who feels invisible in the world but not in your classroom.
“After 21 years of being a teacher and principal, I have learned to schedule time to do nothing, even during the busy holiday season. There is a reason that airline warnings tell passengers “In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, secure your mask before you help others.” Breaks are the oxygen for an army of educators who serve kids every day in our schools. Take time to enjoy the quiet, for it is through those periods of rest that you are able to return to the classroom stronger, with greater clarity about how to teach in a way that results in student learning, and with a renewed commitment to the important work you do daily: serving your students, who so desperately need you.”
—Susan Stone Kessler, Ed.D., coauthor of The Principal’s Survival Guide coming in March 2015
How do you relax and recharge over your winter break?
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