People working in schools this academic year have likely heard the statements, “This has been the hardest year of my career” and “Self-care is important.” While most school staff acknowledge the importance of self-care, they also regularly say that they have not had enough time to care for themselves. That is one reason why so many teachers are counting down the days until summer break.
May and June represent the times of the year where rejuvenation can take place for teachers through reflection around the school year that’s been. However, because the 2021–2022 academic year has been a struggle, the end of the year may not feel rejuvenating. For many, the self-care that is most inviting is “turning off” their teacher brain and enjoying time off. However, some teachers are not good at turning off their brain when they still have things on their mind. The following suggestions are ways the team at AVID Open Access plans on finishing out the year so that we can shut down and do some real self-care this summer. Maybe this can help you, too.
At the end of the academic year, it can be easy to focus on only the struggle and failure. To make it feel more positive, try to end the year with a win. For example, a small win could be making a connection with that student you have been struggling to connect with all year. Ask yourself: What is one way that you and the student could connect? How can you send a positive note home with this student this year? The 2021–2022 school year has been difficult on students and educators because it has been disjointed, which has led to students, teachers, administrators, and families feeling disconnected.
Moving forward, it is important that schools reestablish the connections lost during the pandemic, the return to in-person learning, and all the rule adjustments of this school year. A small win could include trying something new in your class. Try it and see how it goes. Underpinning this approach is a Jamaican saying: “Nothing beats a try but a failure.” This means that the worst that could happen if you try something new is possibly failing, but you would never know if you can succeed unless you leap.
One of the biggest things that educators have lost this academic year is preparation time. As educators have had to adjust and readjust to changing rules and regulations, daily preparation has changed in size. Many plans and projects have needed to be begrudgingly brushed to the side. To end the year with a feeling of success, try taking on one of your passion projects. A passion project could be a unit that flips the class and gives students more opportunity for discussion, an assignment where students have an authentic engagement with community knowledge, or an opportunity to co-teach with a colleague. As teachers, we are ambitious people. If this year has taken away some of your ability to be ambitious and try new things in your classroom to engage more students and improve your skills, this is your chance to reclaim that opportunity.
Speaking of improving your skills, one thing that our AVID team always tries to do during the school year is become better educators. Recently, one of our team members had their midyear evaluation. While preparing, they reviewed their professional growth goals for the year. One of their goals was to find ways to support students in developing their critical thinking skills. In previous years, they would have worked with an instructional coach or taken a professional development (PD) course to improve their skills. However, this current year has put a kibosh on those learning goals. As the year comes to an end, there is still time to try and improve a specific skill set. For example, spend some time asking yourself what PD options are available or which of your instructional practices you can improve with the help of an instructional coach in your building or district. The end of the year can really feel positive if you’re able to confidently say that you dedicated yourself to getting better in a certain focus area.
Knowing that you were successful at something can help you feel good about yourself. Trying one or more of these tips could give you a chance to reflect on the year, end with a feeling of accomplishment, and begin a summer of self-care possibilities.