For those of you who know me personally, this will come as no surprise. For those of you who don't, I am passionate about my job and am a total work-a-holic. These two things put together make for little down time. Several years ago our district decided to give students and staff a full week off for Thanksgiving. I have always spent at least 3-4 days catching up on work or creating new everything for my class. I was usually in my classroom for at least an hour as well.
This year I was mostly caught up with the grading (gotta love project based learning and technology!). My plans for the upcoming weeks were semi-formed in my mind, but there were a few things I needed to get togther or formalize. However, there were several other things I needed to get done. Like find my teacher desk underneath all of those memos and "teacher stuff" or grade the essays they finished just before the break. (Since I never sit at my desk, I find it hard to find the energy and time to actually get to it.) The plan was to work for a few hours each day of the break (ok I would have taken Thanksgiving off) so that I wasn't spending all day Sunday working as usual.
That was the plan. What I did was the exact opposite. I did nothing. (To be honest, I did check my email, but that was only because I am waiting for something important to me to come through.) I slept in an extra 1 - 2 hours every morning. I spent time with my kids watching movies, feeding the homeless, and recycling our plastic. I went for walks with a friend. I spent Thanksgiving with my best friends. I did a little shopping for Christmas gifts and myself (something I don't do often either.). I even caught up on all the shows my DVR was going to delete because it was too full. (I won't tell you how many hours I spent on the couch for this activity!) Each day I would say I should get some work done. Each night I would not regret the fact that I did none of it. I even avoided time with my PLN on Twitter, joining only a slow chat with my peeps. I did spend the last Sunday of the break doing the work I had neglected, but it wasn't any different than any other Sunday.
This was the first time in my 20+ year career that I did things for me over the break. Even when we only got a 4-day weekend, I always managed to use the extra day for work. What I found out was that I really needed that extra time to do nothing. Being a teacher is exhausting, even when I am having fun with the students. Today we went back to school. While the kids were still sleepy from the vacation, I was raring to go. Yes, I would have loved to have a late start and sleep in like I did over break but it wasn't the total desperation of "how many days until winter break" that I normally experience. Did I joke about a countdown with my colleagues, of course! That is more about how the kids are going to do in the coming weeks and how much needs to get done before we leave again.
Spending the time to take care of myself made me excited to see all of the students again, excited to see how they reacted to what we were going to be doing. The next time I try to overextend myself yet again with work, even with the thought that "it's what's best for the students", I need to remember what really is best for the students is to have a teacher that understands there needs to be a balance. We create brain breaks for the students knowing that they can only handle so much. It's time teachers, especially this one, remember that we need to take our brain breaks when we can. That idea I've been simmering, those essays that need feedback, that extra duty I've been asked to take care of all need to be done. BUT only after I have had my time to rest.
What I learned:
- Brain breaks shouldn't just be for students.
- Vacation should be time to rest, not just extra "free" days to get more work done
Back in June I wrote a post about walking the talk and taking risks. What I didn't tell was what risk I was taking. I had applied to be a speaker at the CETPA statewide conference that took place last week. (For a little more on CETPA, see my blog from April 2016 or https://cetpa.net) If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I was accepted. It was a combination of joy and nerves to hear that my session was really going to take place.
Fast forward to last week when I went to the conference. I was presenting on Google Classroom, something I know a little about. (See my Oct. 2016 post). Since my presentation wasn't until Thursday morning and the conference started Tuesday afternoon, I was able to take advantage of what other speakers had to share. One of the sessions I attended was on using Rubrics with Google Classroom. It was the perfect companion to my topic, just for more advanced users. I was so happy to learn how I could take my own learning further, but that I would be able to expand the learning of others as well. I decided to step out of my comfort zone (again!) and approach the speaker. I wanted to see if she would be willing to allow me to add her information to the end of the my slideshow. Here I was wanting to collaborate with someone I had met once before (at the CUE conference last spring), but had never spoken to. This was so not the me I am used to. Luckily for me, she was not only happy to speak with me, but she was more than willing to let me add her presentation to mine. This was the collaboration I talk about with my students! (Thanks Sally Adams, @Sally1Adams!)
Thursday morning arrived and I was "first day of school" nervous. It was that "I know what I'm doing and I got this! BUT OMG what was I thinking" kind of nerves. My co-workers were going to support me (Thanks Jamie and Shannon!), my principal was going to cheer me on (Thanks Jenny!) and even some of our IT people showed. I thanked the first person who came that wasn't from my district, joking that he might be the only one and I appreciated his presence! As I began, I discovered that the only teachers in the audience were the ones I came with. I was presenting to a lot of admin and IT people, not what I was used to in any way! About half way through my presentation I got into my groove and realized that the room was pretty full. I was amazed but had to keep going. Apparently I did pretty well. Several people came up to me after to ask questions and share some of what they knew that I didn't, like there IS a way to import grades from Classroom directly into Aeries. Who knew?!
A few hours after the session ended, one of the attendees approached me about wanting to know my YouTube channel. WHAT?? I knew I had one, but wasn't even sure how to get him there. I think we figured it out. He was so happy that I was willing to be collaborative with him and share my knowledge/resources. This was what my taking the risk to present was all about. I want to be part of the group of educators that work with others for what is best for students. Was it worth the months of waiting to hear, the stress of making sure I had the resources to back up or explain what I was doing, and then the nerves leading up to the presentation? Definitely!
What I learned:
- Educators appreciate those who are willing to collaborate.
- Stepping out of your comfort zone can lead to great things.
- I have more to share with others than I thought. :)
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching