“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work” – Genesis 2:2
One should never underestimate the importance of rest. It is easy to delve deep into the swirling waters of self-sacrifice in the education profession. After all, most good educators understand that what they do has the potential to positively or negatively impact the lives of roughly 30 children or more a year. If you’re an administrator, then you realize that every year the future of hundreds of children’s lives can be impacted by the decisions you make. Understanding this noble responsibility is important, however it can also consume a person.
We all wish to have those teachers and administrators who have that special spark and fire that helps bring education to life for the students. However, the flame must be carefully tended, or it may turn to a raging inferno that consumes its fuel leaving nothing more than the charred remains of a once bright light. I speak of course of teacher burn-out. Its something that happens for many reasons. Today, I’d like to talk about of the need for rest. Down-time should not be something that is put on the backburner and ignored. I learned this lesson a long time ago as a manager for a retail establishment. I would work 80 + hour workweeks and I burned out fast. It cost me a great deal and I learned that you absolutely must ensure that you have time to rest and reset yourself. After all, if God decided to take a rest on the seventh day, what makes us think we don’t need even more rest than he does? The question though is, “how do we rest?”
Resting is necessary
I find it interesting that there are so many teachers and administrators who are shocked when I tell them I try to leave the school site by 3:30PM. Now that’s not to say that it always happens, but more often than not it is possible. There are always exceptions. Sometimes there are situations that absolutely must be dealt with that will keep you tethered to your office until the daylight has long left this side of the world. There are also the requisite meetings, sports games, and special events for which you are expected to be present. However these should not overwhelm a person to the extent that they arrive home exhausted, have not family life, and lack enough sleep to be effective the next day. It is important to remember that we are humans. If you’re a Catholic school teacher, we often speak of the need to be a whole person and part of that is having time to be yourself. Often times, I find that teachers and administrators let their passion and fire for education burn so far out of control that they are spent and exhausted. Some have asked me what my method is and how I manage to find time for myself (Now, even I think I can improve upon this, but others certainly are burning the midnight oil). I’d like to share just a little of my philosophy and methods for remaining a whole person.
Problem solving Situation Solutions
It is going to happen. Problems will arise, though I like to call them “situations” or “opportunities”, “Problems” has a negative connotation that puts you in the wrong mindset for finding unique solutions to the situation (besides, the alliteration alone makes “Situation Solutions” so much more appealing). So how do I handle situations? Like most, I prioritize the situation. I assess if it is critical and needs to be solved immediately. If it is, then that’s what I work on until it is resolved (these should be far and few between). If not, then I place it in my to do list.
The next question I often ask as the email comes across my screen after the school day has ended is Can this be solved tomorrow? Often times, the answer is “Yes”. Now I know that there are many people who want to find the solution right away so that they are not thinking about it throughout the night. I used to be one of these people, but I found that it drastically impacted my personal family time. That’s when I came to the realization: Even if I solve the situation right now… no one will know it was solved until after the beginning of the school day tomorrow. More often than not, this is the case. Once I made this realization, I began to reclaim my personal life. Solving situations has become something that I enjoy, but it is not something that consumes my daily living. Situations are fluid and there are times when one must be sure to act immediately if it is necessary. As teachers and administrators we often put more pressure on ourselves than is fair for any one human to burden.
Vacations are just that
I’ll be the first to admit this… I am not the best at this piece of advice though I am trying to improve. A vacation should be exactly what the name says: a vacation. Its important to disconnect yourself from work emails, work cell phone calls, IM, etc. We need time to rest, to recharge our batteries so that we can approach our work renewed and re-energized. After all, our students are returning renewed and if we are not at least somewhat rested, its difficult to meet their level of energy. Often wonder why the students seem so excited and energized when they return from vacation, yet the teachers seem tired… it just might be that the teachers haven’t truly rested. I can do better in this area (I like to answer and check emails as often as possible) and it is something upon which I am actively working toward improvement.
It is important that we actively seek out rest. If the creator of the universe felt the need for rest, then we should learn by his example. I worry for my fellow teachers and administrators who burn so brightly and face the specter of extinguishing their flames. Burning the candle at both ends is no way to ensure effective longevity in education (with the last name of “Wick” I’m wary of burning two ends of any candle). Bad puns aside, the truth is that we need time to be ourselves, the problems that show up in our inbox at 7PM will still be solvable the next day at 7AM. The benefit is that you can approach the situations refreshed with the benefit of sleep and rest on your side. A tired person makes rash decisions, while a rested person can assess the situation more thoughtfully.
What are your methods of ensuring you get enough time to rest? Do you rest? What questions do you have about making time for yourself? Do you have any advice for teachers who feel overworked? We’d all like to hear from you. Click on the comment link below and share your comments!