Teach Better | 3 Ways for Educators to Make the Holiday Break More Meaningful
In This Post:
The importance of using our holiday break time to recharge, professionally and personally.
Three ways to have a more meaningful holiday break.
Let’s face it. Teaching is tough, which can lead to stress — especially for teachers who are constantly striving to teach better.
Studies show that burnout and trauma associated with teaching are so emotionally taxing that it causes some of our most talented educators to rethink their choice in profession and then leave. For some, burnout and trauma lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and less than optimal performance in many areas of their lives.
So, to be at our best for teaching, it is essential for us to find the right balance between both our personal and professional identities. Unfortunately, the constant go of the school year leaves many of us drained by the end of the workday, and taking the needed time to figure out what we need to reboot and heal often takes a backseat.
However, the upcoming holiday break provides those of us in education a nice block of time. We can use this time to strike a new, more effective balance.
Here are three things educators can do to get started and make the holidays more meaningful.
Holiday Break Tip #1: Fill Your Cup
We must take care of ourselves first, and doing so is not wrong or selfish. Author and educator Eleanor Brown once said, “You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
But unfortunately, many of our educators’ neglect filling their own cup, metaphorically speaking. Luckily the upcoming uninterrupted time away from school can be utilized wisely to do some of the things that rejuvenate us with inner peace and happiness.
Here are a few ideas to get us started:
Do nothing. Now I do not recommend doing nothing for the entire holiday break, but a day or two to decompress may be what’s needed.
Find your happy space. Engage in something you love to do (i.e., cooking, hiking, going to the movies, working out, making or listening to music, meditating, take a dancing class, etc.). Doing what we love naturally makes us happier and is a good lifelong practice.
Read or listen to a good book. For busy folks like me, I recommend getting a membership with Audible. The first audiobook is free, and titles can be swapped out for others if you don’t want to keep them.
Listen to podcasts. Podcasts are helpful because participation only requires listening — and are perfect when on the go (i.e., traveling, the gym, etc.).
Holiday Break Tip #2: Invest in Your Relationships
Dave Willis said, “Time is the currency of relationships. If you want to invest into your relationships, start with investing your time.”
Many of us have either friends or family that we haven’t seen since the last or a previous holiday season. Perhaps time and distance have made getting together or catching up more difficult. We may also have new friends that we would like to get to know better, or we might have a relationship that needs mending.
Being a father of two teenagers has made me feel that relationships are a more significant part of life than I once thought. It seems to me that nourishing our relationships is important enough to be an ongoing priority for most of us.
And yes, it is easier for some of us than it is for others — and so the holidays can be the perfect time to begin. But before we start contacting every single person we once knew, I recommend carefully contemplating who you would like to connect with by asking yourself, “Do I want this person in my life?”
If the answer is yes, here are some ideas for making the first move:
Call or write. No need to complicate this. Simply break the ice by stating something along the lines of “Hi there — been thinking about you and I would love to catch up — when are you free to get together?”
Plan an outing. Creating a plan for coffee, a meal, or happy hour are perfect for catching up with friends and family. It is also a nice way to integrate a new friend or significant other into your circle.
Use social media. If actual Facetime or phone calls are difficult or simply not possible, our social media can be leveraged for socializing at a safe distance. You can start the interaction by wishing those you care about happy holidays, or congratulating them on any new achievement.
Holiday Break Tip #3: Set a New Professional Goal and Outline Steps to Accomplishing it
Ed Mylett says, “You were put on earth to grow, to contribute, to serve, to help in YOUR WAY, and the current version of you is perfect as it stands right now. BUT it will be inferior next year!”
Since professional growth is ALSO essential to our well-being and to ‘teach better’ requires us to learn better — I recommend using the holiday season to plan and map out a new goal for the upcoming year.
But before committing your hard-earned dollars and time to learn something new, be sure that it will enhance either your curriculum or teaching practice.
Here are some ideas for setting goals for the new year:
Learn 3-5 new teaching strategies/protocols. I recommend starting with fine-tuning your approaches to planning and teaching. Some of my favorites include Gold Standard PBL, the Grid Method, the Jigsaw Technique, and Critical Friends. For more ideas, check out John Hattie’s book ‘Visible Learning’ for a comprehensive list of factors that impact student learning.
Sign up for a new class, course, or workshop. Many of the folks in my professional learning network (PLN) are continuously enrolled in new learning that ranges from graduate classes, an ISTE U class, Computer Science workshop, PBL workshop, and a Teach Better professional development (to name a few).
Begin a book study at your school. An effective book study can really help get an entire school moving in the same direction. I recommend reading and unpacking books that inform the school staff about the trauma that students face with ways to help and the learning theories that are associated with the instructional strategies being implemented in your school. Here are some good ones: Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning, 20 Ways To Implement Social Emotional Learning In Your Classroom, Teach Better, and The Art of Coaching: Effective Strategies for School Transformation.
Striving to teach better requires our life to be balanced, both personally and professionally. Whether we’ve found that or not ‘yet’, no worries. Let’s use the holidays to reset and do our best to make the most meaning of that precious time.
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