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Beyond the classroom

3 Essential Steps to Take a True Vacation from Teaching

A teacher celebrates the first day of vacation

You've done it. You've finally closed the door after your last student walked out of the classroom. Whether it's the beginning of a long weekend, a week-long holiday, or the prized summer break, you're about to enjoy a vacation from teaching, and you can't wait! Teaching is many positive things—enriching, inspiring, fun—but it can also be exhausting. You need to recharge your batteries every once in a while, and enjoying your vacation is one way to do that. But if you tend to spend more time thinking about work than working on your tan, how can you get in the right head space to relax?

 

Leave No Loose Ends

Finish up any and all lingering work before you walk out the door. Correct the papers that need to be corrected. Clean up the mess in the corner. Straighten up the library or change the bulletin board before you leave for a break. Don't leave anything unattended, or else those tasks will set up camp in a corner of your mind and you'll be thinking about them when you should be focused on yourself. I once brought a stack of student essays with me to the beach. Even though I never read them, they served as a constant reminder of the work I wasn't doing. Loose ends will inevitably strangle your ability to take a true vacation from teaching. So walk out the door knowing that you'll be ready to get the show on the road when you return without having to devote precious free time to prep work.

(Temporarily) Sever All Ties to Your School

After you close the door, commit to erasing school from your mind for the time being. Stay off your school e-mail account; if you keep it on your phone, remove it until you return. Make it hard to check anything related to work. Leave any and all school-related items—paperwork, books, your school ID, the pencil a parent gave you that says "Apples Are a Teacher's Best Friend," your sweatshirt with your school's insignia on it, grade books, etc.—behind. That's where they belong during vacation!

Do Things Just for You

Remember that a vacation is the time for a little sanctioned selfishness. Start the break by doing something fun. To get into vacation mode, my wife and I host a big dinner with friends to celebrate the beginning of the break. Some people pack the night before their holiday starts and leave right from school. Others like to spend their vacation taking a class that's entirely unrelated to their classroom life. Maybe you just want to be a couch potato. After all, the movies you watch and books you read on break don't have to match your curriculum, so you can go crazy!

Think of your vacation like cross-training for your soul. If you want to be a great runner, you can't just run. Instead, you have to do yoga, lift some weights, and build your core muscles first. The same goes for being a good teacher. In addition to practical skills, you need to have personal experiences that inspire you, and stories to share that enhance classroom life.

You give 100 percent to your students when you're at work. When that door closes and you walk off campus, you need to make sure you're giving yourself the same amount of effort. You'll be that much more excited to return to the classroom after you've enjoyed a real break.