Part 1: The whirlwind that is "holiday season"
If you're an educator, you know once November hits that it's the big stretch until the coveted Holiday break. No matter how your district allocates the time off, it is the light at the end of the tunnel for what feels like a very long haul of extra long days jam-packed with after school activities and school functions, progress reports, parent conferences, professional development days...you name it. That's just the work part. You have to factor in your life stuff too.
I took on a lot during November, so much that I was dreading it since September. Every time I opened my calendar I felt like falling apart. In the moment, the things I signed up to do were things that I wanted to participate in, because I like contributing professionally and I like being able to do as much as I can for the kids. I knew going into everything that it was going to be a struggle. Amazingly, by the time November came to an end I was still standing, and I accomplished a lot! I actually felt really great about everything, and almost guilty that I was complaining about the things I took on. I had the opportunity to teach a workshop to other art educators about my Pixel Art project that I did with my 8th graders. I posted the content of that workshop to this website, you can find it under the "more" tab. I also got to teach a 3 week course on Schoology to a small group of educators from my district.
What I learned from these classes is that I love sharing what I do with other professionals. I know some teachers say it's impossible to teach other educators, or teaching adults "is the worst". However, I really enjoyed it. I'd love to keep finding ways to share with others, and that's one of the reasons one of my 2019 goals is to keep this updated more and share more art ed content!
I also helped my department host our first Art Alumni Day, as part of our impromptu Art Careers week. This was also stressful at first but ended up being one of those majorly inspiring days that leaves you crying and understanding why you work so hard every day. I don't know if many other professions leave you with that feeling. I hope everyone, at some point, can experience what it's like to truly love what you do so much that it makes you cry. Former students coming back to talk about how they found their passion through fine art, video, graphic design, etc. and to see them doing their thing and enjoying their life, is hands down the biggest reward you can ever get as a teacher.
Alumni day was right after Thanksgiving, which went by with the blink of an eye, and lead us into the three week stretch before Holiday Break. December was equally as demanding, lots of projects going on in the art rooms, Breadth Critiques with my AP Drawing class, after school club meetings to make things for our holiday craft sales, and I still had my weekly Schoology workshop to host, as well as a concert to supervise. The burnout was becoming real. I felt like every day I was fighting off potentially getting full-blown sick.
Part 2: Holiday Break and A New Found Appreciation for Self-Care
I meet with my AP Drawing class 9th period, so they were my last class before the break. We had spent the previous 4 days critiquing their breadth work. These kids did a great job getting their 7 pieces together and (mostly) finished for their critique. They've been working hard since their summer assignments so we decided to kick back and have some treats for the last day. It reminded me that it's important to step back and make some time for yourself. I shared some self care ideas with my students because I know if I was feeling burnt out, then they definitely were.
I feel that we stereotype teenagers as being generally lazy and unmotivated, but many of the teens I encounter every day have hours upon hours of homework, they spend time studying for SAT's, PSAT's, ACT's, they participate in countless clubs at school, or outside of school, they might have jobs, they might have to care for siblings when they get home, they might have responsibilities at a place of worship, they might have volunteer work to do... and they're still in classes during the same hours I'm working at school too. I know many of the kids I teach are staying up, sacrificing normal sleep patterns and eating patterns, and we practically encourage it having gone through similar experiences- "oh you're young you can handle it" or "if you haven't pulled all nighters you're not doing it right". There are these really unhealthy expectations that we hang on to, like this is supposed to be a normal way to learn in these formative years.
So we took some time while we snacked on a smorgasbord of holiday goodies, and discussed how taking time for yourself is important. You have to be able to stop, take a breath, get some exercise, walk, do something just for you... Spend time with friends, go to a movie, binge a tv show, meditate, do some yoga, stretch, smile, pamper yourself, and not feel guilty...Say no to negative people and situations that drain your positive energy, eat healthy foods that your body needs, drink water... Spend time to regroup, refocus, go to a museum, read a book, listen to new music.
And then, since I didn't heed my own advice soon enough, I spent my entire Holiday Break home sick with bronchitis and acute asthma, forced to pretty much not leave my house or do anything remotely fun for the entire break. Cue the "I told you so's," It's time to practice what I preach.
Part 3: 2019
As educators, we aim to please- we want to make our school culture and our community amazing, we want to change the world, we want to give our students the very best experience, but we can't sacrifice our health or else we can't keep doing these amazing things.
I don't know if you're into the whole New Year's Resolution thing, but I think because I'm a virgo and I'm a teacher it is a double whammy; I always spend this time of year thinking about the goals I want to set and how I want my next year to be different.
I won't get into all of it, but I think the most important thing I can focus on is not feeling guilty for making the time I need for myself. It's ok to say no. I need exercise, I need to breathe, I need to spend time with my friends and family and my dog, and I need to be able to come to work focused every day- not just the day after a break or after the weekend finally hits. Our culture has programed us that we feel obligated to over work ourselves, so I am going to pick and choose more wisely about what I choose to focus my time on.
I hope everyone has a great New Years and I'm looking forward to sharing more content with you in 2019!