- Paula Cristina Azevedo
Sometimes we just need a break
For many of you this week is spring break. Wohooo!! I’m sure you are thrilled that this much needed break has finally arrived. For me I find that spring break is a great opportunity for me to practice the four Rs: Relax, Reflect, Recharge, and feel Refreshed for the rest of the academic year. By this time of the academic year we’ve had to overcome many challenges and are just exhausted by the daily grind. By this time of the academic year we’re running on automatic, which for me indicates that I’m on “survival mode,” just trying to keep the momentum going in my class, and not really reflecting as deeply as I should about my teaching practice. That’s why I created a Wellness program for this week. This program is designed to help those who are feeling exhausted by the school year to take this time to relax. It’s not too late to join and start the Wellness Week program if you’re interested.
I find it difficult to relax. I’m constantly running to the next activity, the next project, the next pile of papers to grade and never taking a break from it all. Going through life like this can be exhausting. We all know that chronic stress and exhaustion can lead to physical and psychological problems such as, heart problems, digestive issues, muscle pains and aches, mood swings, fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness, and so much more. This is why it’s so important to give yourself permission to relax.
I’m sure you’re thinking I don’t have time to relax because there are emails that still need to be answered, there are assignments that need to be assessed, and so on. However, not giving yourself permission to relax is far worse than a slight delay to completing a task. My average habits of relaxation doesn’t necessarily mean a whole day or week of laziness, but instead periods during the week when I can give myself the time and a quiet space to unwind with a good book that has nothing to do with work, make a cup of green tea and mindfully drink it, practice yoga, or pausing to practice deep breathing. Though, during spring break I find that I need to go beyond my go-to relaxation techniques and do something a little deeper such as, treat myself to a massage, practice meditation for 30 - 45 minutes, even something as simple as treating myself to a mani pedi.
So, think about how you want to spend this week relaxing. You may find that my relaxation techniques may not fit you and your personality. Maybe you’re an extrovert who finds it relaxing to be surrounded by close friends. Then go out and have fun with your best friends. Relaxation looks and feels different to different people, but everyone can receive the same benefits from relaxation. For instance, lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, maintaining normal blood sugar levels,improving quality of sleep, reducing stress hormones, decreasing inflammation,and improving mood and concentration. So, the next time you start feeling guilty for relaxing just think of all the health benefits and you’ll be a much better teacher to all your students.
During the spring break I also like to take some time to reflect on my teaching practices. Even though I’m constantly reflecting on my practice, I find that the break from being on all the time in front of my students gives me an opportunity to think deeply about my practice. It’s really important for me to step back and dig deep about what I’m content with in my classroom and what I still need to work on for the rest of the year. It doesn’t have to be anything major. It can be something as simple as the way I have my room arranged, how I use my planning period, or how I’m using a new strategy in class. I try to focus on one thing that I would like to work on for the rest of the school year.
Once I have something I’d like to work on I reflect on what is working and what’s not. For instance, let’s say I want to incorporate more socratic seminar in my classes. First, I would reflect on what isn’t working in my class such as, the same students continue to lead the discussion and other students seem to coast during class discussion. Then I’d think about what I hope to accomplish by using a different discussion strategy. For example, by using socratic seminar all students have a role to play and must participate in the discussion in a meaningful way in order to gain points and a grade for the discussion. Students will become more accountable, learn how to discuss about text (college and career ready skills), and gain ownership in their own learning. Then I think about what may be some pitfalls or aspects about myself, my students, and classes that I need to be aware of in order to be successful in my goal. For instance, I cannot jump immediately into a socratic seminar style discussion the week after spring break without scaffolding the process for students and helping them prepare for such a discussion. Also, understanding and explaining to students that it will take time for them to develop the necessary skills for a socratic seminar. After reflecting I would do some additional research and ask colleagues who have successfully implemented the strategy and plan on how I would implement my goal for the rest of the year. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be a new goal. You may find that you’re just tweaking or adding to an already existing goal that you or your team developed earlier in the school year.
Recharged and Refreshed
After spending some time for some much needed relaxation and deeper reflective practice I feel recharged and refreshed for the rest of the school year. However, I find it important to maintain some of the relaxation techniques and continue to reflect in order to sustain myself for the rest of the school year. So, don’t forget to continue to take care of yourself these final few months in order to end the school year strong.
By the way, it’s not too late to join Wellness Week. Go to The Meditating Teacher Wellness Facebook Group to learn more and gain access to the wellness material for the week.