Thoughts About Arts Education

Don't Erase the Results of Your Break By Adding Stress To Your Return To Work

Go back to your school communities with a strategy plan that encourages a mindset of well-being and actions aligned with your priorities while saying good-bye to bad habits that increase stress.

Starting back after a break/vacation shouldn’t be stressful, but the reality is that many people are anxious with the return for a variety of reasons.

Below is my sixty-two minute reflection guide/strategy planner to help you identify priorities, develop a plan for aligning action, and identify any bad habits that will erase the benefits gained from the break. Let’s make it to the first day back without any additional stress.

Note: although there is a sixty-two minute individual reflection task, the key to this strategy working is realizing that we collaborate and work towards our goals together as an educational community.

This strategy plan isn’t about you spending the weekend working in isolation, rushing to fulfill tasks.

This strategy is about reflection and getting an action plan together so you can facilitate your curriculum tasks with your students/department/school community while keeping your well-being as a focus.

With clear priorities and self-reflection, the work week is less about “getting stuff done” and more about working together to fulfill goals.

May your return from break be focused on solid pedagogy and wellness and not filled with counterproductive stress.

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An Educator’s Sixty-Two Minute Reflection Guide To Prevent Erasing the Results of Your Break

Grab your notebook and let’s reflect.

First Twenty Minutes: Prioritize Your Priorities

Three questions:

  1. What are your priorities?

  2. What things are taking away from your priorities?

  3. What actions will you start/stop/continue to help you align your work with your priorities?

Remember: the educator is a whole person. It’s necessary to have your well-being, and a work/life balance, be a priority. If we are truly educating 21st Century learning competencies, we need to be full participants in our world.

Second Twenty Minutes: Sketch Out the Rough Plan

Now time to put some timelines to your priorities and actionable items.

This planning will be very you specific. My context: secondary teacher entering into exams. My students need consolidation time to demonstrate their learning. They also need instructional opportunities to help them navigate course selection, applying to post-secondary, and managing their wellness during a busy season.

I start with sitting down with my classroom planning calendar and the school calendar for the month and plan backwards, making sure to give some buffer days before the students go into exams just in case weather (yay Canada) causes bus cancellations. Always give yourself flexibility to be proactive about timelines changes beyond your control.

Apply this same practice to all of the initiatives that you participate in. Does your professional learning committee have a presentation at an upcoming staff meeting? Are there promises that you made to produce data or material towards a specific project? Sit down with your calendar and make a plan for accomplishing the tasks without feeling guilty. Remember: a break is a break for educators too.

Final Twenty Minutes: Have That Hard Self-Awareness Talk With Yourself

Look into the future and consider if you might engage in some of these behaviours.

  • After spending time on break, do you enter into Monday with a mindset of guilt?

  • Do you feel like you need to work throughout your lunch period and/or into the wee hours of the night to “make-up” for “lost time”?

  • Do you start every e-mail apologizing for being away?

  • Are you going straight into well-being debt by staying up too late or ignoring your nutrition and/or fitness because all of a sudden, you have become “too busy”?

  • Are your plans aligned with your priorities? If not, why and what might prevent you from changing so your plans do align with your priorities?

If you have ever exhibited any of these behaviours, acknowledge and then stop the cycle. Go back to your priorities. Go back to how your actions align with your priorities.

And, be kind to yourself. Find the root of why you might be exhibiting these behaviours and deal with them. No judgment. No emotion. Have the courageous conversation and then move onto setting actions in place so you don’t fall back into negative work behaviours.

Final Two Minutes: Declare a Transition Period

Now that you have your priorities, and your plan, declare a transition period that fits your educational context and share those prioritizes and planning work with your community.

NOTE: Make sure to dedicate some time for your transition day so everyone can participate in, and align their actions with, the next steps for your educational community. This strategy does not have the same impact without the transition day and co-constructing plans with your community members.

In a classroom context, that might look like co-constructing deadlines with your students, going through the look-fors of the final assessment and identifying, together as a classroom community, where the gaps are and how the gaps will be addressed.

My transition period will be the first day back. 75 minutes decided to co-construction, alignment and being proactive towards our end of semester tasks.

In my theatre courses, the students are working towards their end of semester final performance and reflective exams. On Monday, we will co-construct a calendar that identifies our checkpoints. We will use the criteria from the Ontario Arts Curriculum and co-construct look-fors/next steps using evidence from our class’ portfolio of previous work.

Apply the same concepts to initiative work. How are you using the data, and aligning your data sources, to fulfilling the departments/team/school’s goals? The transition period for facilitating the administrative tasks that I have to do will be extended to a week, where I have identified tasks that need to be finished by certain dates to keep on schedule with facilitating the specialized arts program.

And remember: the students and your colleagues are coming off of break too. Some of them travelled the world. Some of them had a break wasn’t “exciting” or “filled with positive memories.” This transition period will allow everyone to get back into the mindset of your educational community.

Two minutes left in your reflection session. Decide on length, how you’re going share your priorities and co-construct a plan together to align action with practical impact.

Congratulations! That was a good sixty-two minutes of reflection that will have huge impact on your own and your school community’s well-being.

Now that you have this new sense of clarity and alignment, get out there and enjoy the rest of your break.