Our family has had an unconventional Thanksgiving this year. Instead of staying home and celebrating Thanksgiving, my husband and I, along with my parents, loaded up our RV’s and headed to Palm Springs for the week. It may be unconventional but it has been perfect.
I spent the majority of the week spending time with my family (plus my adorable puppy), reading books, watching Gilmore Girls, and visiting sights in Palm Springs. Surprisingly, I did not spend a lot of time working or lesson planning until the last day or two. For me, this is pretty uncharacteristic. I love education – I eat, breathe, and live education. I don’t take breaks because it doesn’t feel like “work” to me – it’s my passion.
Yet, I found myself in need of break. I remember standing in my classroom, during the last period of the day on the day before break, and feeling like there was no way anymore information could get inside my head. Have you ever felt that way? Like there is no possible way you could retain any more information? That’s how I felt that Friday. I was happy, but tired. Excited for the break, but my brain just felt full. So, I made it a priority this break to spend very little time working (until the last day or two) and more time relaxing. It’s important to take a break and to take sometime for yourself. I’m writing these words because they are words I need to remember. I’m quite aware that my “work-life” balance is out of control about 90% of the time. It’s a process.
I’ve found that there a five main reason that you need to take a break and I hope that this encourages some other (crazy, perfectionist) teachers find some time for themselves, too. It’s not just best for you, but it will also be what is best for your students.
1.) It will prevent burnout.
Teacher burnout. It’s a real, serious thing. Statistics show that nearly half of the teachers that enter the profession leave within the first five years. Isn’t that crazy? That means that their experience as a teacher was poor that they would give up their career, which they spent so much time and money, to go into a new profession.
“Beginning teachers have the highest turnover rates. We generated data over a decade ago showing somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of those that go into teaching are gone within five years.” – Owen Phillips, NPR
Personally, I don’t worry that I am going to burnout and leave the profession. I really love what I do – I love education. My greater fear is that I will burnout and not be as productive or as good of a teacher. Each situation can be quite concerning, whether it is burning out and leaving teaching or burning out and losing your fire for what you do.
By taking a break, it will prevent you from burning out and losing that excitement for teaching. It will keep you going, even when you think you can’t.
2.) It will give you perspective.
If you are teacher, you understand the long hours that most non-teachers do not realize that you work. It’s so easy for days, weeks, and months to slip by before your eyes. Your focus is on teaching and doing what is best for your students. You end up in this tunnel and you cannot see much else. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not bad to focus on teaching and your students. That is essential to being a great teacher. However, it is easy find yourself thinking only about your classroom and students. That isn’t healthy, either. You have to have a balance.
By taking a break, it will give you perspective on what is truly important in life, which may not be just one or two things. It will remind you that, yes, teaching and students are important, but so are your family, friends, and health. It will give you the perspective to look outside of your “teaching” life and into your “whole” life.
3.) It will increase your productivity and creativity.
Like I mentioned earlier in my post, I found myself completely shutting down when break started. My brain could not retain any more information. I tried to sit down and lesson plan and…nothing. I had no ideas, which is odd for me because my problem is usually the opposite. I remember looking at my lesson plans for after break and saying, “I just can’t even think about this right now.” Again, this is not me. I’m so weird that I love lesson planning but I just couldn’t plan…I needed a break.
By taking a break, it will allow your productivity and creativity to increase. As I took a break throughout the last week, I found my brain drifting towards work and several ideas for my classroom would pop into my mind. I would quickly write them in my phone so that I could return to them later when my brain was mentally ready.
4.) It will keep you healthy and happy.
There are times where I have worked 12+ hours a day for 5+ days straight on a regular basis. Honestly, that isn’t healthy. I’m completely aware of that, but it is something I really struggle with overcoming. Sometimes I will get an idea in my head and I just run with it. Before I know, it could be 9 or 10 o’clock at night and I have spent a large part of my afternoon/night creating, reading, or writing something for work. It’s not a bad thing…but there has to be a balance.
Take a break – go for a walk, go to the gym, or spend some time with family. There is so much scientific research that eating right, exercising, and taking breaks will help you to become a healthier and happier individual.
5.) It will make you a better teacher.
The last four points build to my final point…By taking a break, you will become a better teacher.
If you’re reading this post, you are not one of those teachers that take “too many” breaks. You are probably one of those teachers, much like myself, that do not take enough time away. In fact, there is a good chance you are already a great teacher but, if you don’t slow down and take a break, you won’t be able to become better.
One of my administrators just shared a quote at one of our leadership meetings. She stated, “We can do anything, but we can’t do everything.” Wow! I swear I need to get that tattooed onto my forehead (just kidding, that would be weird). It’s so true, though. I believe that we can accomplish any goals that we really want to accomplish, but you can’t do everything. More importantly, the more that you try to do, the less you will be effective as a teacher because there is only so much each person can handle.
Take a break…If not for yourself, do it for your students.
This is a part of a set of blog posts from the Transparency: Real Stories from a Real Classroom series.