Picture it: a school in 2020. I dodged students as I sprinted to the bathroom where I had approximately 90 seconds before I had to join my virtual students’ Google Meet and welcome my in-person students with a smile. In a haste, I pull the toilet paper and only receive one square of it. “That’s not enough,” I thought. Pulling a little harder in hopes to get a few more turns out of the roll, my hand drops with—one square. I pull again. One square.
Realizing how much time I’m wasting along with the crippling rage caused by ripping off one square at a time, I bust out in tears of anger and pure exhaustion. Yep, right there in the bathroom stall holding four individual squares of toilet paper, I cried and wondered why can’t this one thing work like it’s supposed to? Jolted by the fact that now there are unsupervised young minds eagerly awaiting my arrival, I very quickly got myself together and bounced into the class where I proceeded to click, talk, answer questions, pass out papers, and write on the board simultaneously with a smile!
This School Year Is Testing Even the Best Teachers
Whatever way you’re teaching this year, this profession is not for the faint of heart. Since last March, our patience, creativity, flexibility, and juggling skills have been tested like never before. We usually begin a new school year filled with excitement, fun expectations, creative lesson plans, and smiles each morning, but for many of us, that was short-lived or replaced by the overwhelmed feelings of stress, fear, chaos, and uncertainty.
That same week where I broke down in the bathroom because of the “square by square” incident, I also almost quit two times and even cried at a Hallmark Christmas movie! I guess I got carried away at the thought of someone getting to live out this Utopia of a life. And this week, I went to do laundry and saw that my daughter had worn bathing suit bottoms as underwear one day because she didn’t have any clean in her drawer. In my defense, there was a laundry basket piled four feet high with clean and folded clothes, but it was so full she didn’t know where to start.
On most days, my classroom is like the Kennedy Space Center with all the monitors, cords, high emotions, and low patience. We are having to stay one step ahead of the crazy. If you’re a wife and/or a mom, then it feels like two full-time jobs. Pile on homework, projects, dinner, and practices (to name a few), and where does that leave time for you?
Teachers, We Can Make It Through With Grit and Grace
I saw a meme the other day after Thanksgiving break and it read, “Only a few more mental breakdowns until Christmas guys. We got this!” It spoke to my soul on a whole new level this year! We are surviving and dragging anyone we can with us. But does it really have to be this way? Do we really have to just drudge through? Can we really find ways to enjoy this time?
I believe that we can not only make it through the rest of the semester, but we can also end 2020 well, with restful, thankful hearts. Thank goodness for the holiday breaks we have. For me, thank goodness I have one of the best groups of students I’ve ever taught. Thank goodness for good teacher friends and a patient family. We give so much of our mind, body, and soul each day, how can we find the strength to enjoy life away from school much less anticipate next semester without breaking into a cold sweat? I need to be picked up, sometimes literally. I challenge you to use the rest of this semester to get recharged, hopefully enjoy the holidays, and set the tone for another challenging semester ahead.
Here are a few ways teachers can recharge over the holiday season:
- Turn off the email. When you clock out, clock out. You owe it to yourself to disconnect. Over Christmas break, stay off of your email!
- Set yourself a clock-out time. With all this year’s responsibilities, we could literally sleep under our desks at school. Set yourself a time that you absolutely do not work past. Whatever doesn’t get finished by that time, has to wait until tomorrow.
- Scale back on the projects and assignments. Don’t even try to do things the same way you’ve done them before. Too many times, teachers are guilty of trying to do so much that it feels like we’re not doing anything well. Assess the students but don’t over do it for them or you.
- Build in some time for Starbucks, TJMaxx, Hobby Lobby, and Dunkin’. Those need no explanation!
- Cry. By all means, if you need to cry, then do it!
- Laugh! If you only cry, then you’re allowing yourself to stay in that place. This year has provided plenty of humor! Start a group text where you send memes throughout the week. It will be good for your soul!
- Exercise. This is a great stress reliever for obvious reasons, but crucial for your mental and physical health. It forces you to spend an allotted amount of time on you!
- Love on your students. We get so caught up in the academics part and meeting all the standards and hitting all the marks that we forget to “see” them. We should busy ourselves noticing and talking to them instead of at them.
- Dial down all the extra-curriculars. Not forever, or maybe forever. Just give yourself some time to breathe and figure it all out. Say yes to only the absolutely necessary activities. It is perfectly acceptable to say no without giving a reason.
- Set aside 30 minutes of your day (I like the 30 minutes after we put our kids to bed) to read a good book or soak in that Netflix original you’ve been dying to watch. Or, turn on a Hallmark Christmas movie and marvel at how perfect everything is!
- Get all the take-out and food delivery places on speed dial. I pray every day that the Lord will cover my bases in the nutrition department for my kids because it just ain’t happenin’ right now! We love pizza or cereal nights, and those tend to be the most carefree and least stressful nights, too.
- Look for the small, good moments. Maybe it’s the fact that the internet didn’t go out during your virtual class or that a student who you thought cared about nothing flashed you a hint of a smile. Look for them. Those good but small moments are there.
- Count your blessings. The trials and challenges scream at us all day long and seep insecurities into our every fiber. We really do have so much to be thankful for. Let’s start with the job that is driving us crazy. I have to check my heart sometimes because the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Ask for help. This might be the most important but the hardest to do. Ask for help with the kids. Ask for help with laundry, as it seems I should. Ask for help making lunches. Ask for help with lesson plans. Ask for help grading. Ask for help.
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