Summer. The sunshine and relaxation are finally here after the longest month of May I ever thought possible. There have been so many posts, memes, open letters, Tweets, etc. etc. about how teachers really don’t get the summer off. We are still busy readying ourselves for the coming year, planning lessons, buying supplies, and all of the things that must get done before the next group of shiny new kiddos walks into our rooms on the first day of school. I won’t be redundant. You all already know these things, or have read something describing how busy our summers truly are. I won’t deny its truth either—my to-do list has already grown to a full page, and I’m still not done adding things. What I will do is talk about how it is absolutely, 100% necessary for all of us to take a little time and hit the reset button.
Every year, we pour our heart and soul into each day with our students. We give until we have nothing left, and then we dig deep and give a little, or a lot, more. Whether that is consoling a student through a tough time at home or with friends, putting on a true performance of a lesson that engages your entire room, using your lunch hour to tutor students who are trying to get just a few more points to earn the A in your class—our year is exhausting. The last few months are even more so, as we are using every weapon in our arsenal to keep our students present and learning after the weather turns nice and the promise of summer is upon them (and us). Mentally, physically, and emotionally, we are drained when the buses pull away on the last day of school. At the end of it all, we know we’ve put in the work because we can feel the exhaustion creeping up. If you’re anything like me, you probably leave the last day of school and are asleep by 8:30 pm. It’s as if the weight of the school year is lifted, and you can finally relax.
The joy of classroom and locker clean out.
This year, I spent my first weekend of summer visiting my college town. A friend of mine recently bought a house there, so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and make a weekend of it with my husband. He was on board, and so the first Saturday of break, we headed down to good ol’ Peoria, Illinois. I didn’t really expect to get as much out of that trip as I did, but I am so glad we took the time to visit a few of my favorite places on and around campus. As we wandered around, I reminisced and shared memories of my college years with my husband. Many of our first memories together are also here. We, of course, had to visit my favorite coffee shop and study table in it. I had to take pictures in front of as many buildings as I could. We continued to walk, and I began to feel a sense of calm slowly come over me. It was as though this short walk down memory lane had allowed me to go re-enter the mindset I had while I was in college. Back then, I had the whole world ahead of me, my career was just beginning, and I was wholeheartedly in LOVE with the vocation of education.
At this point, I still have many opportunities ahead of me. My career is still in its early stages, and I still hold a strong passion for education. However, after a long year when I’m feeling burnt out and exhausted, this reminder could not have been more timely. This reset, if you will, was exactly what I needed to get back to a healthy mindset. It’s been an incredibly busy year for me. Most days, I was overwhelmed and stressed at the never ending pile of work that loomed over me. I constantly felt as though I couldn’t get my head above water because each time I crossed one task off my to-do list, I added about seven more. Thankfully, I was able to take a weekend and revisit the fresh, excited person I was before taking on the weight of adulthood.
It was a beautiful day to visit the Quad!
Being a beginning teacher or a teacher entering their first year is something daunting, but truthfully, I envy most of those young adults. That passion and pure, unfiltered excitement at their first classroom of children is something that cannot and will not ever be replicated. Those students are in for a unique experience, and one that will be so genuine. While I will never be able to have My First Class Ever again, I do feel as though I’ve rekindled some of the flame that was flickering in the wind of a trying first few years.
Each of us needs to take a little time to be forgiving to ourselves, and allow ourselves the break that we have earned. Your year, I’m sure, had its ups and downs just like mine. I’m sure you also had days when your to-do list continued to lengthen, no matter how many tasks you accomplished or goals you achieved. It’s important to remember that at the end of the year, we did our absolute best for those kids because they deserved our absolute best.
Now summer is here. It’s time for each of us to find our reset button. Whether it be writing, reading a book by the pool, vacationing somewhere exciting, or taking a walk down memory lane, give yourself permission to do it. Give yourself the time you deserve to rekindle your flame and hit your reset button. When your next group of kids comes walking in on the first day, you’ll be ready for it. They’ll be eager to learn, and you’ll be just as eager to teach.