I (Cathy) read this lovely blog the other day and wanted to share it with you. It seemed appropriate for this time of year, when so many people seem rushed and pressured, preparing for the holiday season. I think it applies to teachers and teacher educators alike. But most of all, it’s about our students. Where some of us live, we can’t take our students outside due to the weather, but I think if you got creative, you could think of someway for them to “unwind”.
I played hooky a few weeks ago. I filled out my paperwork for half a personal day and took the afternoon off.
It’s not something that was easy for me to do. I’m usually overcome with guilt and angst whenever I take time off. I can count on one hand the times I’ve actually taken a personal day, and sick days are used only when I am so ill, I can’t muster the strength to crawl to the shower—one every few years. There’s too much work to be done to miss school—the students need me too much, right?
So, I don’t take time off.
Yet that day, I did. Where I live, the weather can be fickle and complicated. We never really know what’s going to happen on any given day. But this month, we were given a delightful weather gift. We had six uninterrupted weeks of perfect days—blue skies, exquisitely clear air, and leaves that turned color slowly. Every day dawned beautifully—and stayed that way.
But I knew our streak was almost over. Forecasts predicted plunging temperatures and heavy rain. That’s why, on a whim, I decided to take the afternoon off.
I went home and settled on our back patio. I sipped a cup of tea and read my way through a few back issues of my favorite magazines.
As the afternoon came to an end and it came time for me to go gather my children from their school, I thought about how peaceful and easy the afternoon had been. I felt full of energy. I’d put a stop to the hamster wheel and it felt terrific.
Since I felt so good after a simple and easy afternoon, I wondered how something like that would feel to our students. I worry about them. I fear they feel the effects of our “teacher anxiety.” Amid the push for high achievement, along with the immense pressure to have students reading and writing on grade level—now!—we forget that sometimes we all just need a break. It doesn’t have to be pedal-to-the-metal every moment of every day, right? Certainly not. In fact, I’d argue that kind of approach does more harm than good.
So, to all literacy teachers out there, grant yourself permission: Sometime soon, on a day that feels just right, let yourself put down the lesson plans for an afternoon. Ignore the to-do list and the upcoming assessments and the small-group conferences you have planned. Instead, gather your class and tell them to pick out a light book or magazine. Take them somewhere lovely and different, away from their routine. Join them in sinking into a comfortable spot to read—in a corner of the school library, beneath a favorite tree in the courtyard, or spread out on the bleachers near the football field. It doesn’t matter where—just so it’s away and interrupts the routine of intensity. Make sure it’s easy.
Jennifer Schwanke Contributor, Choice Literacy