Balancing Work and Rest

27 Mar

When I was a younger teacher, I would stagger into a break feeling exhausted. I remember a recurring dream my first few years of teaching: I was drowning, thrashing to keep my head above water. I’d wake up gasping for air. My subconscious is not subtle. I’d hit winter break or spring break or a long weekend and just crash. It didn’t matter how many research papers I brought home, they’d sit in my briefcase until the Sunday night before we returned to school.

All day Sunday, I’d feel guilty, kicking myself for not getting my work done earlier. I started dreading Sundays for the manic grading I tried to complete and for the fact that I’d be returning to a school that was crushing my spirit (see “Sub-totals”).

As I’ve gained experience, I’ve become more disciplined. Over most breaks, I set aside an hour each day for schoolwork. There’s always work: grading, responding to emails, lesson planning, etc. I sit with a cup of dark coffee and chip away at the pile of work that’s always there.

Usually, I feel proud of myself, proud of my self-discipline. Dedication is definitely one of my core values.

But, this one hour every day (I do take Christmas off) is starting to be less attractive. It’s better than the craziness of the marathon grading of those old Sunday nights, but it ends up feeling like I have no breaks. No rest.

We’re four days away from Spring Break. COVID means we’re not really going anywhere, maybe a few day trips. But in this year when everything is just a little more work, I need some rest.

I’ve hear some teachers are able to actually not work on a break. I think I’d feel more stressed to come back to 200+ emails and who know how many late assignments to grade. I would like to feel a little more “caught up” after the break.

Here’s what I’m considering. Maybe I’ll dedicate a couple of days at the front end of break to grading and planning and then shut it down for the rest of break. I imagine I’ll triage my emails to keep it manageable, but I’ll do my best not to get too caught up in responding to stuff. If students turn in late work, good for them. They can wait to hear back from me since I had to wait to receive it in the first place.


Posted by on March 27, 2021 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “Balancing Work and Rest

  1. djvichos

    March 27, 2021 at 10:16 am

    I have similar struggles trying to navigate time for rest and work. I feel like I’m more tired this year than ever. I like your idea of attacking the work on the front end and then relaxing for the rest. Then you eliminate the anxiety piece. We’re going to a cabin in the middle of nowhere for most of the time, so I imagine I’ll be doing the Sunday scramble.

  2. Elisabeth Ellington

    March 27, 2021 at 10:24 am

    I used to go through the same cycle but never felt truly rested. I discovered that if I DO take the time off, I feel rested and restored. So that has become an easier decision to make when I feel the difference in my energy and well-being. (I do respond to student emails, but I don’t grade.)

  3. Erica J

    March 27, 2021 at 10:39 am

    This has been a struggle for real! Throughout the break I insist on not doing work and I don’t, but then usually Sunday hits and I have that immediate regret and stress of “Oh crap I have to have lessons and material ready to go for tomorrow’s class!” I don’t like that feeling, but I also don’t like having to work over break. You would think that would mean finding a balance like you are suggesting, but then we cycle back into “It’s my break and I don’t want to work!” So I don’t really have an answer for you, other than I have learned to let things go. Papers will get graded…eventually. Something will get taught on Monday…even if I may have to wing it a bit and accept the consequences of my putting it off.

    Everything will work out one way or another.

  4. Fran Haley

    March 27, 2021 at 4:02 pm

    Such an important key word here: rest. And the need for it. Because this year allowed so little. No wonder self-discipline wanes…everything is fragile when we are exhausted. Our principal emailed that he’s “unplugged” until the evening before we return from break – but I know there are teachers who, like you, feel like there has to be a little catching up to keep from toppling over afterward. Do what you must for YOU, as only you can know. And – happy break!!

  5. aggiekesler

    March 28, 2021 at 2:47 am

    I know how you feel all too well. I’m usually in the guilty feeling camp. I think you have a good plan. We all need to step away and recharge. We’re no good to anyone if we don’t. Best of luck and hope you can rest guilt free!


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