By Stephanie Filio
The daylight is hanging around longer, the bunnies are full grown, and the air is warm like a blanket. Summertime is the season of restoration for we educators. We give to our students and families our all throughout the school year: our hearts, minds, patience, and attention. In the summer, we breathe. We shed the year’s emotions and take time to settle all the battles we have simmering within. Though we try to hang on to crumbs of self-care throughout the year, when we finally close the books in May or June, we allow ourselves to relax more fully.
It goes without saying that this summer is going to be different. Most of us have already been home for many weeks, so talking about “summer break” feels strange to say the least. In the beginning of our school closures, when Zoom meetings were fun and digital work was fresh, I didn’t think I would feel the need for weekends or summer break. However, as we gained our bearings, we filled our schedules, learned how intensely our families needed our support, sat with silent students on video so they could have social interaction, and stayed stuck to the computer day after day. It has been tough, and we are tired.
As our country cautiously reopens, and as it struggles with unrest, you may find yourself wondering if it’s even okay to be excited for summer. My own opinion on this fluctuates from day to day, but I know one thing for sure: what we do is important. What we do will bring about the leaders, doctors, lawyers, officers, parents, and educators of the next generation. What we do empowers our country’s children and advocates for their rights every day. We have to be able to show up for our students. And in order to do so in a way that they deserve, we must allow ourselves to heal.
Let’s start with a daydream and pretend for a second that we know what to expect of our calendar, school environment, and society next year. The typical school year is filled with tears, laughter, work, scrapes, and pride. Though the details are always unique, the formula is relatively the same. Similarly, I approach some summers with projects and plans, while others I want to take in every day as it comes. I love having time to:
- Practice mindfulness
- Have lunches with family and friends
- Read non-work-related fiction
- Work in the garden
- Enjoy creating (painting, crocheting, crafting, etc.)
- Binge on TV
I am smiling just writing that list because it reminds me so much of summer! And this is where things get a little unglued. A lot has changed this year, and I am having to take note.
First, sometimes I have to make myself do things that I find joyful in order to find joy. This is something that I wouldn’t have learned during a normal summer, when it can be easy to confuse apathy with relaxation.
Second, during summer breaks, I usually want time to go by slowly, but this year, after I’ve spent so much time working at home in anxious energy, I am reaching for ways to keep busy and spend time. I am eager for the opportunity to delve into my hobbies in a deeper way and hope that they will still offer a therapeutic measure.
Third, many of the activities I like are meditative in nature, which I know everyone could use more of. In the same way that I use my Crochet Club at school to teach kids how to relax their minds and hands to control tension, I have learned how to let my hobbies teach me instead of only entertain me.
To Work or Not to Work
Every summer I wonder if I should work on school stuff. Some years it helps me feel prepared and gives me a creative outlet, and other years it just makes me anxious about the new year’s great unknowns. This year is different (a phrase we are saying A LOT!). As we close out our digital school year with heavy hearts during an unprecedented 2020, our students are now also watching our society grapple with historical and systemic tension.
As adults, we know how it feels to sort through so many emotions; we have and will have much to process with our students in the fall. Because I believe our nation’s schools are the heart of progress and change, I feel like we have to be prepared to welcome our students back with love while also using the momentum of national efforts to empower them. It will be on our shoulders to continue powerful conversations and allow our students to be an essential part of change.
In order for me to best serve my students, I must educate myself over the summer by participating in activities that will expand my knowledge and perspective, as well as strengthen the tools I have to bolster student voice. This might include:
- Participating in conversations with colleagues
- Attending digital webinars and roundtables
- Researching and supporting diverse businesses
- Researching grants to procure diverse literature and resources for our school
- Reading literature on historical oppression and school solutions
- Ensuring my professional learning comes from diverse professionals and authors
- Working with diverse colleagues on lesson planning and schoolwide needs
Season of Youth
This year has no doubt been exhausting. We have been running on fumes and are anxious about what may lie ahead of us. However, I encourage all my educator friends to take a cue from the “spirit of summer” and embrace our ability to feel freedom and rebirth. Whatever is on your to-do list this summer, know that it is okay to relax and let the world melt away in the sun. You have worked hard, you have cared, you have made a difference, and you are enough.
Stephanie Filio is a middle school counselor in Virginia Beach. She received her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Virginia and her M.Ed. in counseling from Old Dominion University. In a discussion with one of her UVA professors about her desire to stay in school forever, her mentor wisely responded, “If you want to be a lifelong learner, go into education,” and so she found her place. Prior to her six years as a school counselor, Stephanie worked in private education, specializing in standardized tests, test preparation, and future planning. She writes about her career and hobbies at her blog, Weekend Therapy, and can be found on Twitter @steffschoolcoun. Stephanie also enjoys spending time with her books, crafts, and family.
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