Last year, I wrote about my work-filled summer. In that piece, I planned to really look at this summer's activities, and make them less work-related.
I didn't succeed. I ended up working almost a week beyond my calendar, trying to catch up on tasks that didn't get done before my official last day. Of course, those extra days pale in comparison to the number of weekends my colleagues spend working in their classrooms, a practice I successfully avoid.
I did make a point of signing up for library activities that came with a paycheck. The five sessions of summer library afternoons, one evening of pop-up library time, and presenting a professional development are compensated hours.
But....each one of those activities eats into my summertime.
Why do we educators do this to ourselves? Do doctors and lawyers take their case files with them on vacations? At the end of the school year, our administrators send us off with messages of "Relax!" and "Enjoy your break, come back refreshed!" How does self-care fit with the parallel, unspoken expectation to continue working? Are they mutually exclusive?
I began thinking of this post when a blog about a summer bingo game for teachers popped up in my Twitter feed. I get it; it's supposed to make work fun. But we aren't at work. We are on summer break. You know, those days we don't get paid for. Viewing it from the lens of self-care, imagine my disappointment when every square was work-related. If I were to make a summer bingo card for educators, this is what I would include:
- Get a pedicure in a bright summer shade.
- Turn off your alarm clock, and see how many hours of sleep you really should be getting. Try to work that into your school year schedule.
- Attend an adults-only event (or two, or three).
- Read a fiction novel for grown-ups.
- Read a nonfiction book that ISN'T about education.
- Revive an old hobby.
- Listen to new-to-you music; purchase whatever lifts your spirit.
- Learn a new craft or skill.
- Go off the grid for three full days.
- Connect with friends/ meet new people who aren't educators.
- Travel; visit a new-to-you place.
- Get a massage, or two, or three. Schedule them at regular intervals for the next year.
- Find physical activities that bring you joy and health.
- Get a physical checkup with your doctor.
- Make a self-care kit with snacks, mints, gum, scents, deodorant, chocolate, cough drops, bandaids--whatever you might need to get through a long school day. (Yes, I know this is work-related, but the self-care aspect is what's important here.)
I know that great teachers are lifelong learners, and are always striving to improve their teaching skills. It's an admirable trait, but I often wonder if we are truly compensated for our time and effort. Yes, the intrinsic value is worth more than the paycheck. I also worry that we become myopic in our definition of learning. We don't have to be all about education, all of the time.
Especially during our summer break.