It may seem odd to consider giving oneself gifts in the final weeks of the school year. Our attention has been focusing on others and making certain we complete crucial tasks, making sure students stay focused, while ensuring important recognitions and awards get presented with appropriate fanfare. We typically think of this time as busy, stressful, pressure-packed, and, occasionally, chaotic.
Certainly, our students deserve the attention and recognition we’ll provide, but we also need to attend to our mental and physical health during these weeks. As we think about what lies ahead, we do well to also consider what we need and how we’ll take care of ourselves. With this challenge in mind, here are five gifts to give ourselves to sustain our energy and carry us through to the end.
The first gift is time. We may not think that it’s realistic to set aside time to catch our breath, clear our minds, and restore our spirit. Yet, taking a relaxing walk, listening to our favorite music, or just visiting with friends can go a long way toward helping us power through looming activities and responsibilities.
The second gift is simplicity. The end of the year can be complicated. Programs and celebrations need planned, significant portions of the curriculum have yet to be engaged, and much documentation and report completion lie ahead. Now’s a good time to ask ourselves what really matters, what can be simplified, and what can be let go. Focusing on what’s essential helps us preserve energy and allows us to enjoy the experience of concluding our teaching and learning journey with students.
The third gift is forgiveness. Not everything has gone perfectly this year, and not everything will go perfectly during the final weeks. Still, much good has been accomplished over the past weeks and months. We shouldn’t allow what we wish would’ve happened to cloud and crowd out what’s been good. Similarly, much that’s good lies ahead, even if what we’ve planned and what we’ll do won’t go exactly according to our script. Unfortunately, too much focus on what’s not perfect can rob us of what’s been so good and has given our students so much.
The fourth gift is kudos. Now’s a good time to reflect on the difference we’ve made in the lives of our students. We’ve been a driving force for learning, growth, and maturity in their lives. We may hear expressions of appreciation from students and families. We may receive congratulatory comments from colleagues and supervisors. However, we know about differences we’ve made of which no one else is aware. We can recall special moments when our counsel, encouragement, and coaching made a crucial difference during a time of struggle and challenge for our students. We can celebrate even if we can’t share some of these experiences with others.
The fifth and final gift is joy. We can let go of the responsibility we felt as we launched our students on their learning journey, the weight we felt when they struggled, and the commitment we made to keep trying, even when we felt as though we were running out of ideas to support them. As the year ends, we can release the load we carried, experience the joy of having completed our task, and ready our students for the next phase of their learning journey.
This is a time of mixed emotions, competing responsibilities, and significant stress. Consequently, it’s also a time when taking care of ourselves is especially important. Enjoy these five gifts and make this an end to the year that you’ll celebrate and remember.