June has arrived, bringing the promise of summer and a sudden shift toward optimism in our daily routines. While I will eventually write a post about some of my favourite recommended teacher reads for the summer, I am going to encourage all of my fellow ETFO members to do something really important: take a long break from teaching.
I remember my first few teaching years rather vividly: the stress, the endless classroom management, planning endlessly, and the never-ending pile of marking that only seemed to grow. It is hard to describe the feeling of absolute relief, joy and freedom that comes on that last day of school when the bell rings. Within days, I would pack my giant backpack and head on a flight to South America, where I would gleefully spend my days exploring new cities, trying new foods, and meeting people from all over the world in the hostels I would stay in. Nothing puts distance between yourself and your daily routines like immersing yourself fully in another country, especially if you are somewhere radically different from the place you are from. Spending long weeks simply exploring was like living another life, and I relished every moment until the inevitable day I would return home and be in the same place I had left – but utterly refreshed and ready to start a new school year.
While my life has changed radically since those carefree days – it’s a little harder to live out the backpacker lifestyle with two kids in tow – I still feel it is critical to distance myself from work for as long as possible when summer arrives. Teaching is intense, and this school year was perhaps one of the most challenging. As the recent ETFO member survey points out, violence in schools is pervasive, behaviour in schools is escalating, and understaffing persists. The challenges faced by students re-entering schools after years of pandemic disruption added a whole new dimension to the work of classroom management. Self-care is absolutely critical to stay healthy in the teaching profession today.
As educators, we continue to teach and support students, even in difficult circumstances: but to keep going, it is essential to take the time to distance, decompress, and refresh.
This summer – if it is possible – create as much space as you can between your personal and professional life. Get lost in a new country, the woods, the desert, a new town, a new park, or new neighbourhood. Read books or watch movies that that activate your imagination and take you to another world. When you see your teacher friends, try not to talk about work! Try it for a few days, a week, a month, or more.
Of course, professional development over the summer is important, but going into a learning session when you are burnt out or frustrated may hinder you from getting an optimal learning experience. Take the time you need before pushing yourself again in your professional practice. Your body and mind will thank you for it!