By Nasrin Samadi
At the end of every school year, I feel like I've gone through a marathon, crawling to get to the finish line. June 29th was a very faraway light at the end of a long tunnel. I had a particularly rough year with a number of challenging students. Every sincere effort to spark their intellectual curiosity seemed to fail. Usually by June, I feel pride in seeing progress.This year, however, only a few students showed up for the last days of school and nobody said "Goodbye" or "Thank you."
In my ninth year of teaching, I have finally realized not every class will be perfect and that some students will be difficult to reach. Some will blame the teacher for not trying harder, for not thinking of an innovative way to motivate the students, or for not coming up with a better incentive. In any case, it is hard to recover from an emotionally draining year, where negative circumstances can make you question your own competency and ability to do your job. That is why it is so important to keep yourself healthy and well and to do all you can to maintain your dignity, pride and passion, so that, even on your worst days, you can do your best.
But how do we recover and recuperate? Here are some suggestions:
1. Body Recovery - Sleep. Just sleep. Rest up. Be lazy. Be a complete sloth. Our minds cannot begin to recover without physically recharging our bodies.
2. Be good to yourself - Teachers rarely make time for themselves. Even during the sumer, when we ostensibly have all of this unstructured time, it is often difficult to allow outselves the freedom to do absolutely nothing- to enjoy the peace of silence, alone in complete solitude.
It always surprises me how concerned people are with being unoccupied for so long. It must be so lonely!
I rather enjoy the solace of not having to live by bells, to go shopping when the malls are empty and brunch places are not packed. It is okay to not have every minute filled with a productive activity. No one should make you feel guilty for taking time for yourself, especially when the school year will consume all of your free time- and more! While regular 9-to-5-ers enjoy their weekends throughout the year, teachers are grading notebooks, calling parents, creating more lesson plans, and uploading artifacts for administration. You deserve a break! Take it!
3. Rediscover your bucket list - Once you've allowed your body and mind to recuperate, it is time to feed your soul again. In a matter of weeks, we will be back in class. There will be a new group of kids who deserve a happy teacher that is passionate about their content area. In order to give them that, you need to give yourself something as well.
Summer is your chance to start over again and rediscover your love for the subject you teach or just to feel a sense of accomplishment and joy in doing something new and different. It is imperative to regain a positive outlook and to find joy in the things you do. Remember- the energy you have in the summer transfers into the fall months.
Do something to spark your inner child and to increase your sense of excitement. Take a weekend trip somewhere new. Try a new sport or make time for that project you have been putting off. Traveling is a great way to take time off, to gain a new perspective on life, and to disconnect from technology. Think back to what made you interested in teaching to begin with. What got you hooked? Maybe it was seeing mummies in a museum or watching your first Shakespearean play. I have always been fascinated with ancient civilizations and so have made an effort to see something new each year. From the Great Pyramids to the Parthenon, seeing history come alive is truly incredible. It reignites my spirit, curiosity, and wonder with the world, and inspires me to share it with my students. I know that when I am enthusiastic and passionate about a subject, it will be infectious. And in the same way, if I do not regain my positive spirit, it can lead to a very negative year.
4. Pace yourself and plan ahead - When you are able to rediscover your spark, it is time to put that creative, productive energy to use. Unfortunately, summer cannot be entirely play time. A good teacher needs to plan ahead for the year to come. Fortunately, this can be done slowly, using just a few hours a week. Take a calendar out and start mapping your first units. Set goals for how much you realistically want to complete each week so that by the time the last week of August rolls around, you are not having nightmares about the first day of school. Putting in the work early prevents the stress that will ensue from procrastination.
5. Practice your regular school schedule and routines - When school starts, the hardest thing to adjust to is a normal sleeping pattern. Do not wait until the night before to try to get to sleep early. At the end of August, start changing your eating times and increase your physical activity to make yourself tired earlier so that you can begin sleeping at a normal time. Set an alarm and do not sleep in too late! Gradually, start your day earlier and allow your body time to adjust. Make a list of weekly chores that need to be done, and figure out what days you will consistently do them. Planning out the small stressors in life can help make the entire year less stressful and allow you to focus your energy on more important things.
As with all things that are important to do, doing any of these things is easier said than done. However, a little discipline can go a long way to ensuring a smooth start to the school year.
Nasrin Samadi teaches English and Civics at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown.