Frayed … I feel a little unraveled this time of the year. The crunch of getting things done before the last day of school. The never-ending list of must do items before we smash several get-togethers with family and friends. The packing before leaving for a vacation. The lack of sleep. The … well, the everything.

Our students are frayed. Teachers demanding their assignments. Parents rushing them around. Realizing they might not see good friends for two weeks. Having the pressure to be perfect at family get-togethers. Knowing the safety of school will not be there for the next two weeks.

Our families and colleagues are frayed. Most likely everyone we have recently seen or will see in the next few weeks are feeling the stress we impose upon ourselves this time of year. Holiday stress is so real that the Mayo-Clinic has a page on its website dedicated to coping with stress and depression.   

We cannot expect to be perfect during this time of the year, but many of us expend a great deal of energy trying to be or pretending to be. This includes the time we should be relaxing, away from the day-to-day time spent with our students. We don’t always need to feel like we are doing everything we possibly can. I need to remind myself frequently during the Holiday Season to take the time to refresh myself. I want to return to school excited to be back with my community of learners. I don’t want to return to classes of 25-29 students feeling like I need a vacation to recover from a vacation.

Over the last few years I have, rather secretly, only had three goals over the Holiday Break.

  1. Read a book that has nothing to do with school. This year I am planning to read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (which I received last for Christmas. ugh).
  2. Sleep at least eight hours each night. This may not happen, but it needs to happen. I think I’ve had one night in the last month that I slept more than seven hours. Most nights it is less than six hours. The lack of sleep is a constant for me during the school year, but it doesn’t need to happen during a break.
  3. Practice gratitude. I think I do practice gratitude regularly, but I am forgetful during the busyness of this season. Since I know I am happier when I share my thankfulness toward others, I will do something to show my thankfulness each day.

I know I have to do so much more than these three things before I return to school in January, but most everything else can wait. If I don’t read the numerous books I hope to read, then I don’t. If I don’t finish pre-planning the next writing unit, then I don’t. If I don’t go to every event I want to attend then I don’t. None of those things will make me feel renewed at 8:18 am on January 3, 2018. However, I know reading a book just for me is a gift to myself. I know catching up on my sleep is a necessity for me and a gift to my family. And I know being thankful will make me a better person and remind the people I love the most that I am thankful they are in my life.

Our classroom communities need us to be the best version of ourselves when we return from a long break. We should return to school feeling put back together, not coming apart at the seams.
To start my practicing gratitude phase, I am publicly thanking Brian, Sarah, Jim, Lysey, Kevn, Jennifer, Angie, Scott, Lea, Mandy, Andrea and Aliza. You said yes to collaborating on this site and I am incredibly thankful you did. I have learned a great deal from all of you in just five months. I cannot wait to see what you do to challenge and affirm my thinking in the future. I am truly blessed to call you all mentors and friends. I wish sometime in the future we can all be at the same place at the same time. Let’s figure out a way to make that happen.

photo credit: greg.simenoff Knot- via photopin (license)

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