The Best Teacher Gift? A Break!

Christmas LabelsAs yet another student begs and pleads to turn in a late assignment from September, I stare past her envisioning myself curled up on my couch with a cup of hot cocoa.  I am so ready for winter break.  Yes, I. love. teaching.  My students challenge me and inspire me each day. But I just wrote the 27th letter of recommendation this semester and I have a stack of essays that need grading and I have to enter grades from the last two articles of the week and I need to make copies of the final and I need to check the online portfolios for my EL kids and I have my daughter’s winter party and I have to finish holiday shopping… The list goes on and on and on.

Anyone else feeling a teensy bit overwhelmed and burned out?  I start the year full of ideas, inspiration, energy.  I end the semester running nearly on empty.  Luckily, winter break presents teachers with a gift. The gift of renewal.  A chance to breathe.  A chance to recharge.  A chance to focus on ourselves and our loved ones.   This holiday season, take care of yourself.  Do more of what you love.  Spend time with the people you care about.  Breathe. Relax. Play. Create.

When you return in the spring, carry the same holiday mindset with you into the classroom. Cranky teachers do not create optimal learning conditions…and we all become cranky when we give too much of ourselves.  If we are frustrated and stressed, not only will our students suffer, our health will suffer as well.  How do we combat classroom crabbiness?

Find joy every single day.  Cultivate happiness by enjoying the time in class with your students and spending time out of class with your colleagues.  Make time to eat lunch with department members and friends around campus.  Collaborate with other teachers so that you not only have more adult time, you also get some lesson planning done.  Chat with others in the copy room, at the sign in sheet, in the quad.  If a cup of hot coffee puts you in a good mood, buy a coffee pot for your classroom and offer to share with other teachers in your hallway.  Isolation Say something and/or do something kind for one person each day…kindness and gratitude are contagious.

Set aside time for yourself each and every day.  In order to have 10-20 minutes to myself I wake up a bit earlier…before the three year old and the six year old come bounding into my room…before my husband asks where his tie is…before the email changing the day’s meeting time comes through.  Most days I do yoga, stretching and savoring the stillness and silence of the day.  Some days I write or read. Other days I simply make a cup of tea and watch the sun’s arrival gradually awaken the color of the sky.  What time can you carve out of each day that will be just for you?

Teaching demands as much of our souls as it does our brains.  Yet, it is probably one of the most rewarding professions that exists.   The trajectories of lives are changed because of your influence.  You will never know just how many students you have inspired.  Each day remember the immense importance of your profession. Remember this and still take care of your own needs.  Because you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.

This holiday what will you do to help you relax?  What plans do you have to play?  What will you create?  I asked a few faculty members the same questions and here is what they said:

Tina Centoni:  I’m getting married in Ireland! I plan to dance the night away at my reception. On my honeymoon in Iceland,  I hope to hike through an ice cave, swim in the blue lagoon, snuggle with my sweetheart under the Northern Lights and rock out to hours and hours worth of Rob Thomas as we drive 850 miles around the entire island. Oh, and kissing, lots and lots of kissing! And somehow I will also find time to read 🙂 And I plan to laugh my way through all of these adventures! Can’t wait!

Martin Kirby:  My favorite activity is having no idea what I’m going to do… allowing me to surprise myself. I might travel, or not, learn something, or not, challenge myself or not. I know there’s likely to be few ‘or nots’…

Kerri Mitchell:  Relax:  Getting massages and watching a lot of TV;  probably doing stuff with my kids too.  Plans to play:  Going to Vegas the day after finals to stay in a time share with the hubby and the kids.  Also, probably taking the kids to Mmagic Mountain a lot (that does not answer the “what will I do to relax” question, of course…..).  I also plan on spending as much time as humanly possible holding Michelle’s baby as soon as he decides to grace us with his presence.  Finally, I plan to create a livable environment for my family:  AKA a clean and organized house.  It hasn’t been that way since mid-October…..

Brian Necessary: This holiday I will see my wife and kids for more time than a wave hello and goodbye. We will take a camping/climbing trip to Joshua Tree. I will build some furniture, and add plants to my yard. Finally, without question, I’ll be reading and listening to music.

Becky Nelson:  I will relax by having time to be outside with family and friends. We have lots of meals and hikes planned with friends and family.

Nick Gravel:  I will read some fiction and non-fiction outside of my content area so that I can expand my knowledge about the world and bring other content areas into my content area (math, science).

Cheryl Driggs:  To relax…SLEEP and READ READ READ!  My plans are simply to have fun playing with my grandchildren…you know…bridging the generation gap.

Gail Hart:  Go to the gym, read a book, hang out with my family, hang out with my family, hang out with my family, hang out with my family. (then have a week of rehearsals)

What about you?  Leave your responses in the comments below!  

What will you do to help you relax?  What plans do you have to play?  What will you create?

Happy Holidays!





  1. RELAX!. After completing my first 3 courses at CSUN this semester, I am looking forward to a month with no homework. I will be spending some time with my family in Michigan, and lots of time with my husband and our rescued doggies.


  2. Heck, no time to relax for me. Too many things to do. I will volunteer for at least three dinners, I will ski twice, if any rain occurs I will be at a waterfall somewhere hiking, I will also hike with two special needs kids. I intend to read a minimum of 4 books and I will try to put 50+ miles of running in. Oh, then there’s soccer virtually every day!
    I’ll rest when I’m dead…..


  3. forgot, I am also in the midst of writing two articles, one for Palaestra, one for Referee mag and I should get to about the 40th page in my book in the coming weeks.


  4. December 18: Make four giant pans of pasta for the Hart Community Dinner. Try not to slip in the back kitchen (John Kiernan gets a little crazy with his turkey cutting).

    December 19: Attend my nephews play. Try to suppress laughter at such terrible acting. Tweets are ok.

    December 20: See Star Wars: The Force Awakens

    December 20-23: Reflect on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Get in email battle with John Howard over the film’s plot.

    December 24: Set rat traps on roof. Secure catching net for Santa Claus. Remember to use 2 mm Eliminator Rope from BlueWater. Last time he got away.

    December 25: If Santa is successfully captured, loot his bag of presents. Share with fellow staff members at Hart. If not captured, honor the beauty of the day with family and friends.

    December 26: Sleep (food/overeating)

    December 27: Drive slowly past gym, stare longingly inside, drive immediately to Wendy’s.

    December 28-31: Work on screenplay, “Otto Haling: The Guy Who Almost Invented the Slinky.” Convince yourself that stories concerning people who almost accomplish something matter.

    January 1: In invisible ink, continue to write words of praise on Joe Brusca’s door. He does a lot for the kids. Wait for inevitable black light festival.

    January 2: Go to Barnes and Nobel and laugh at Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s book, “A Shore Thing”

    January 3-6: Wait next to Snooki’s book, and mock anyone who buys it. Remember to wear Saugus High School shirt.

    January 7-10: Stare at calendar with depressed expression.

    January 11: Let the good times role! Merry Christmas!



  5. I’m seeing my sisters and parents for Christmas when we converge on my parents’ house in Vegas. Camping with the hubby and friends for some hiking, big camp fires, and hopefully some quad riding. Then read, read, read whatever the heck I want to.


  6. I will be wishing I was on a trip to NY or Europe but I’ll be assisting my wife and sometimes my daughter in playing with my almost one year old Grand daughter who is so cute she’d melt the ice caps….at least those that global warming haven’t already melted. I’ll also be prepping and planning an exciting winter production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” which my performance class will be mounting in the auditorium. We are going to do it with mixed media and I have the Calarts film dept. and member of A Noise Within theatre company coming to help me fulfill my imaginings on how this show can be quite magical. English teachers who teach the master other than R and J…consider teaching “The Tempest” next semester or at least suggest students come see our production on the auditorium stage. I think it will be amazing. Enough promotion… Happy Holidays to all and to all a good day.


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