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8 Ways For Teachers to Avoid the After-the-Holiday-Break Return-to-Work Blues

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Did you count down the days to Thanksgiving Break? And, then was your next thought: “There are only 15 more school days until what we, being politically correct, now call Winter Break!”

If you’re like me the idea of having roughly 20 days off in the middle of the school year is exhilarating—this year for me it’s exactly 17 days—returning to work on January 3rd. So much can be done in seventeen days, all of the things that I’ve been putting off “until break”—the house, clean out the fridge, shopping, wrap presents, plan holiday meals, clean the garage, doctor appointment, dentist appointment, planning for the second semester, catch up all grading, post grades—oh wait!… I need a list!

First of all, let me begin by saying that teachers don’t get ridiculously excited about winter break because we hate teaching. We are, for the most part, dedicated professionals who love being in the classroom with our students. But on the practical side, we need breaks! We need breaks from our sixty to seventy hour weeks that buzz by at warp speed in a whirl of teaching, coaching, planning, grading, bus duty, faculty meetings, department meetings, parent conferences, getting our own children to practice and home for dinner, homework, and bed.

The 12 Days of December

For years, I found myself moving from the work whirlwind to the holiday-break whirlwind that consisted of an unrealistic list of things-to-do that never seemed to get done. Cue music for the blues. Each year I was setting myself up for the return-to-work blues and not even realizing it. Several years ago, I took the time to assess the situation, and came up with some steps that I could take to avoid those blues, and set myself up for a successful return to work! The following are my steps to avoid the After-the-Holiday-Break Return-to-Work Blues. I hope they will be helpful to you also.

  1. Don’t Make Lists!  Yep, I said it. As a dedicated list maker myself, this step was difficult for me, but I can’t tell you how much of a difference it has made for me the past several years. As you can tell from the paragraph above, my lists tend to be overly enthusiastic. Before you stress over being listless, let’s look at ways that can make this possible.
  1. Be Prepared for Your Return Before You Leave. Beginning on December 1st, start planning for your departure for winter break. Have at least a week of lessons planned completely! This means all copies made, materials gathered and organized, you get it—ready so that you just need to walk in and start the lesson.
  1. Have 1st semester grading complete and grades posted before you leave for break. I have worked at several different schools, and some have grades due on return from break, but the school I’m at now, has all semester grades due before you leave for break. At first, I was panicked! I had always used my break to catch up on grading. But, it was the best thing that ever happened to me! I now use the exam week to get all grading completed and the first week back lessons ready to go. And, then the most unusual thing happens! I leave school with my purse! I felt naked in the absence of mounds of school work to do over the break—not sure of what to do with myself, but it was the most liberating feeling once I got used to it.
  1. Don’t Go to School During the Break! Don’t do it! Remember, you don’t need to!
  1. Don’t Count Down the Days Live in the present! Enjoy each day! No lists, no school work, just enjoy who you are and your holidays. The relaxing and de-stressing is so worth it, and you will return to work refreshed and ready to go—no return to work blues. As a matter of fact, you will probably be ready to get back.
  1. Enjoy Friends and Family!
  1. Celebrate the New Year!      
  1. 1st Day Back Lesson: Now that you don’t have the return-to-school blues, remember that many students will, so go lightly on the first day back lesson. My high school students are usually quiet and tired from all of the staying up late nights. I spend some time telling them how great it is to see them again, quickly review where we’ve been in our studies last semester—where we left off, and then some type of small group project that will get them communicating again, and thinking.

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9 Comments

  1. I enjoy teaching, but would enjoy more breaks, especially at the end of a grading period. I would also like a secretary to make all of my copies and grade all of the papers.

      • I just feel like I can never really relax, even in the evenings, weekends, and extended breaks. There is always grading, planning, and PD.

        • I’m the same way! It can be all consuming- that’s why I had to do something, and the first thing I did was to at least give myself a school-free two week break! I’ve been doing it for the past several years, and it has worked wonders. I used to get so depressed as the return to work date loomed ahead- not because I hate teaching, but I think because I knew that I never really relaxed and enjoyed my break, and now my opportunity was gone! It’s hard when school is constantly on your mind.

  2. Hi Beth!
    What awesome ideas!! 🙂 I love your advice about NOT making lists. I feel so bummed out when I don’t finish everything on the list…and then it gets longer…and then I feel bummed again! I used to convince myself that it felt good to cross things off…but not when I need to keep adding more and can’t get it all done! LOL! Thanks for the great post.!

  3. You have compiled an outstanding list of things for teachers to avoid to make the most of their break and truly get refreshed! It is so important to remember to take care of ourselves because it can be so difficult to do that during the school year. Thank you for sharing such awesome advice!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these great tips! I definitely agree with having grades done before break. A clean slate over holiday break is super nice!

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